Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Darden A. Pyron

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

April Merleaux

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Kirsten Wood

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Erik Larson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Thomas Dixon, nationalism, racism, Reconstruction, collective memory, fiction, popular culture, film, socialism, Social Gospel

Date of Defense



Thomas Dixon (1864-1946) has won a singular place in history as a racial ideologue and an exemplar of Southern racism. The historical evidence, however, suggests Southern culture was only one of a variety of intellectual influences, and, though highly visible in most famous works, not Dixon’s primary concern. Rather, his discussions of the South are framed within larger intellectual debates over the region as a whole, and how it related to the rest of the nation. Throughout his life, Dixon helped shape and articulate those values in the formation of a new American identity at the turn-of-the-century. By incorporating the methods of intellectual biography, whiteness studies, literary analysis, and cultural studies into the scholarly approaches of history, this work enlarges the historical understanding of Dixon through the examination of his very long life and varied career and the exploration of his equally diverse and numerous writings, both personal and public. This project’s end goal is to enrich historical understanding of how national identity is interpreted, constructed, and shaped over time, and the many different components influencing its formation.

This research found that defining what is and is not American built on and responded to the major issues of a specific historical context. Dixon’s, and the nation’s larger attempts at defining the terms of Americanism became increasingly complicated during key national turning points, such as the Spanish-American War, the economic depressions of the 1890s, and political realignments at the turn-of-the-century. Analyzing Dixon’s works revealed the influence of the various forces that reshaped American identity, including race theories, scientific advancements, immigration, sectional reconciliation, imperialism, and religion. This work concludes that national identity construction is fluid, and that researchers must consider the importance of historical context in analyses of ideology and cultural trends.





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