Date of Award

2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

David Kress

Second Committee Member

Michael Socolow

Third Committee Member

Nathan Godfried

Abstract

Between 1880 and 1939, America underwent a series of significant economic and social transitions as the country moved toward corporate consumer capitalism. Despite baseball's role in the commercialized entertainment of American popular culture, the Progressive and Social Gospel movements promoted the game as a source of positive individual development and American democracy. Given that baseball journalism and popular fiction promoted the game along similar lines, this dissertation illustrated how baseball writing both reflected the changes underway in American culture and shaped the culture that grew up around the game. Recognizing baseball journalism and popular fiction as significant, though under-utilized sources of cultural attitudes, the study examined selected examples from a wide range of journalistic sources, short stories published in mass market magazines aimed at middle-class audiences, and book-length fiction written for adults. The study characterized how baseball writers used American Bildung narrative to provide a model of a young man maturing even as the culture around him was developing. The study also showed how baseball writing used transitional American character to facilitate the change from Victorian values to the modern concept of self-expressive personality. Thirdly, the study showed how some baseball writers used both Bildung narrative and transitional character to tell unique American stories that mediated between high literary culture and low commercial entertainment. The study confirmed that baseball and baseball writing began as elements of the low social other that evolved over time and became activities that were embraced by the middle-class. Due to the social function of Algeresque Bildung narrative, the blending of Victorian and modern values, and the carnival element of the Busher figure, baseball journalism and fiction influenced middle-class identity and ideology. The study also showed the interconnectedness of baseball journalism and fiction, especially in the cases of Ring Lardner and Heywood Broun, and documented the multiple emergences of the average American, baseball, and popular culture in an important time in the country's history.

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