Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Richard S Lowry


"The Still Life" explores debates over single manhood in the culture of the nineteenth-century United States. Until recently, the "bachelor" was less an identifiable social type than a battleground for discourses of privacy and intimacy, sympathy and sentiment, and labor and leisure. Representations of the bachelor tended to excite readers' concerns about the relationships among emotion, public behavior, and intellectual prowess. Concentrating on constructions of the bachelor within specific discursive arenas, this dissertation examines "bachelorhood" as a way culture organized a wide range of ideologies and experiences. Though the bachelor's particular significance faded in the twentieth century, a conceptual roadblock dramatized by the figure remains: the notion that an emotionally rewarding family life and the production of works of public significance are fundamentally at odds.;The Introduction traces the evolution of the notion of "bachelor" from European religious, martial, and academic origins to its United States version. Distinguishing "bachelorhood" from "single manhood," it sets the terms of inquiry within the theoretical context of cultural studies of masculinity.;The first chapter explores an apparent paradox: while much American writing of the early nineteenth century declared the single male a dangerous figure, Washington Irving's use of the bachelor as narrator evoked a quite different response. as a sentimental male narrator, Irving's bachelor participated in the construction of sympathy (crucial to post-Revolution politics) by observing the family and re-uniting alienated members of the body politic.;Chapter Two moves this discussion into the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance and Melville's Pierre suggest a very different relationship between manhood and the domestic than Irving's model, one that criticized domesticity. Subverting the language of domestic spheres, these stories suggest that intimacy and privacy could be at odds.;The final chapter argues that we see competitive individual masculinity as a complex product of a shared domestic life. It focuses on fin-de-siecle still life paintings by William Harnett and John Peto that depicted men's paraphernalia. These paintings and the contemporary popular literature of masculine domesticity suggest that the new urban bachelor culture was a companionate one, forged in shared living spaces.



© The Author