Date of Award

Winter 2004

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Kurk Dorsey


"Playing the Man": Masculinity Performance, and US Foreign Policy, 1901--1920 argues that early twentieth century conceptions of masculinity played a significant role in constructing US foreign policy and in creating a new sense of national identity. It focuses on five public figures (Jane Addams, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Reed, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson). Although their conceptions of masculinity varied, each of these central historical figures based his or her US foreign policy position on the idea that in the conduct of US foreign relations, the United States needed to "play the man." Similarly, even when their policy prescriptions differed, all argued for foreign policies that reinforced masculinity in the US, and that equated this masculinity with American national character.

The dissertation begins with a discussion of the cultural and historical roots of the nineteenth century. The next chapters focus on Theodore Roosevelt and his circle, and the men who codified the dominant construction of American masculinity at the beginning of the twentieth century. The following chapters trace some of the opposition to the Rooseveltian construction of a strenuous national masculinity. These differing approaches to domestic and international politics, expressed by individuals such as John Reed, Jane Addams, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Woodrow Wilson, sought to reframe the connection between masculinity and foreign policy. Though these individuals agreed with the Rooseveltian equation of manhood and national identity, they had differing conceptions of ideal American manhood, and so they differed in their prescriptions for US foreign policy.

The conclusion discusses the ways that the Great War affected the central figures, and the ways in which the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment affected the nature of politics, and political rhetoric in America. Finally, it traces some of the legacies of the combination of masculinity and foreign policy, and points out some of the many aspects of US foreign policy that still bear the stamp of the Rooseveltian construction of masculinity.