Swenson 2008 Discourse

Title Information

Author: Brie Anna Swenson Arnold

Title: "Competition for the Virgin Soil of Kansas"

Subtitle: Gendered and Sexualized Discourse about the Kansas Crisis in Northern Popuplar Print and Political Culture, 1854-1860

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota

Year: December 2008

Pages: 362pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | U.S. History | Representations: Press

Full Text

Link: Google Books (Limited Preview)

Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)

Additional Information

Author: Brie Swenson Arnold, History Department, Coe College

Abstract: »This dissertation argues that the gendered and sexualized popular discourse surrounding the crisis over the extension of slavery into Kansas Territory in the 1850s was central to changing northern public opinion in the antebellum political contest over slavery. Gendered (meaning the historically specific social and cultural ideas about what men and women should say and do) and sexualized (historically specific ideas, words, and actions having to do with sex and sexual bodies) ideology significantly influenced the political realignments of the 1850s. I examine the outpouring of northern popular literature produced about Kansas between the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and the presidential election of 1860. In thousands of novels, newspaper articles, plays, poems, prints, and pamphlets, northerners presented a boldly gendered and sexualized critique of the political crisis over slavery in Kansas. Personifications of Kansas Territory as a white female, references to alleged rapes of free-soil northern white women by pro-slavery men in Kansas, images of the figurative rapes of free-soil northern white men by pro-slavery men, and attacks on the masculinity of northern "doughface" Democrats were influential in swaying northern popular opinion on the expansion of slavery, political party affiliation, and voter decision-making. The gendered and sexualized discourse about Kansas in popular literature served a crucial political function, as it fueled widespread northern commitment to stopping the spread of slavery, inflamed white northern animosity toward the South and pro-slavery men, and pushed white northerners who were previously unmoved by the issue of slavery toward supporting the free-soil Republican Party. By engaging with the historiographies of antebellum politics, antebellum gender and sexuality, nineteenth-century popular and print culture, and the Civil War, this dissertation presents a new and persuasive explanation for why millions of white northerners rallied in the late 1850s in opposition to the extension of slavery and in support of the new Republican Party. The gendered and sexualized discourse about the political crisis over slavery's expansion into Kansas was fundamentally decisive in the political realignments of the 1850s and the turn toward civil war.« (Source: Thesis)


  Acknowledgements (p. i)
  Abstract (p. vi)
  List of Tables (p. viii)
  List of Figures (p. ix)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 1. "All the Latest News of Rapes, War, Murderer, &c. from Kansas": The Kansas Crisis and the Explosion of Kansas Popular Literature (p. 39)
  Chapter 2. "Competition for the Virgin Soil of Kansas" Gendered and Sexualized Representations of Kansas Territory in the Political Crisis over Slavery (p. 85)
  Chapter 3. "To Inflame the Mind of the North": Slavery Politics and the Rape of Free-Soil Northern White Women in Bleeding Kansas (p. 114)
  Chapter 4. "The rape of Northern men by Border Ruffians": Gendered and Sexualized Imagery of Pro-Slavery Violence on Free-Soil Northern White Men in the Kansas Crisis (p. 164)
  Chapter 5. "Pale-blooded, chicken-livered, and dough-faced": Nothern "Doughface" Democrats and the Rhetoric of Manhood and Virility in the Kansas Crisis (p. 193)
  Epilogue (p. 244)
  Appendix A. Note on Sources and Research Methodology (p. 250)
  Appendix B. Images, Graphs, and Illustrations (p. 255)
  Bibliography (p. 306)

Wikipedia: Bleeding Kansas

Added: December 27, 2014 – Last updated: December 27, 2014