Title page for ETD etd-11162005-131958

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Casemore, Michael Brian
URN etd-11162005-131958
Title The Language and Politics of Place: Autobiographical Inquiry in the American South
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Curriculum & Instruction
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
William F. Pinar Committee Chair
Claudia Eppert Committee Member
Elsie Michie Committee Member
William Doll Committee Member
Robert Ward Dean's Representative
  • social psychoanalysis
  • autobiography
  • curriculum theory
  • place
  • the south
Date of Defense 2005-07-18
Availability unrestricted
Place is central to the study of the American South. The question of the meaning and power of place underpinned the earliest efforts to define and understand the region, and place remains a crucial concept in an ongoing process of regional identification and inquiry. This study explores southern place autobiographically, historically, and theoretically in order to illuminate the subjective and social dimensions of place and to promote progressive conversation in the region. My inquiry is interdisciplinary. It draws on psychoanalysis, Southern studies, and the philosophy of place-as well as on theories of curriculum, literature, and art.

If places can inspire thought and reflection, they can also palliate and conceal subjective and social conflicts that call for our attention. I show that the dominant conception of southern place compensates for a sense of insufficiency in white men, thus supporting collective belief in the adequacy of white masculinity and the coherence of southern community. In its most rigid form, this cultural rhetoric demands the adherence of individuals to dominant cultural values and excludes questions of racial justice and gender equity from the public sphere.

To unsettle the dominant conception of southern place, I examine the fundamental trope on which it relies, the white male southerner in his relationship to the land. Interpreting literary texts that address and transform this trope, I demonstrate a process of working through a cultural symptom, a process necessary for social psychoanalytic insight and progressive social change. This process requires that we acknowledge particular experiences of loss as they emerge from conditions of racism and gender discrimination; identify the social forces that perpetuate these losses and injustices; and cultivate understanding of unconscious aspects of the self and world.

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