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Warring for AmericaCultural Contests in the Era of 1812$
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Nicole Eustace and Fredrika J. Teute

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631516

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631516.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Naval Biography, the War of 1812, and the Contestation of American National Identity

Naval Biography, the War of 1812, and the Contestation of American National Identity

(p.278) Naval Biography, the War of 1812, and the Contestation of American National Identity
Warring for America

Tim Lanzendörfer

University of North Carolina Press

This essay argues that a close look at the relationship between periodical production and nationalist rhetoric in the biographies of naval officers printed in the Analectic Magazine between 1813 and 1816 suggests the contingent nature of national identity in the context of the War of 1812. American periodicals took great interest in the events of the War of 1812, providing something akin to war reportage to their subscribers. During the War of 1812, several periodicals turned to the production of biographies of naval and military commanders that had excelled on the battle field. Biography, however, provided more than merely a glimpse of notable lives: instead, periodicals negotiated and contested ideas about American nationhood through the medium of biography, a discovery which necessitates a re-appraisal of the role of biography in the Early Republic as well as of simplifying notions about American nationalism. Reading Washington Irving’s 1813 biography of Oliver Hazard Perry, winner of the Battle of Lake Erie, against James Kirke Paulding’s 1816 life of Thomas Macdonough reveals how different genealogical models of American ascendancy shaped the narratives told about naval officers; and in turn, how naval officers could become models for particular versions of American national identity. Nevertheless, both of these models remained contingently tied into a pre-existing nationalist discourse triggered by the war, rather than actively shaping this national discourse: in this, they also reveal something about the often-overemphasized power of periodicals to shape national consciousness.

Keywords:   Analectic Magazine, periodicals, naval biography, historical memory, public heroes, mythic origins, Washington Irving, Oliver Hazard Perry, James Kirk Paulding, Thomas Macdonough

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