Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Michael Keene

Committee Members

Janet Atwill, William Hardwig, James Stovall

Abstract

This dissertation contributes to the growing body of research in rhetorical studies of identity theory. In this dissertation, I look at alternative texts that seek to construct and forward communal identities. In particular, this dissertation investigates Charles Towne Landing, a historical state park in Charleston, South Carolina, to study the ways historical sites of public memory are sites of rhetorical identification.

The State of South Carolina’s legislature authorized a body called the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission to plan and execute a celebration of South Carolina’s three-hundredth anniversary, which would take place in 1970. The commission planned and built three parks in South Carolina as exhibition sites for the Tricentennial Celebration. Charles Towne Landing is the only one that still exists. The commission intended Charles Towne Landing to represent colonial life in South Carolina, focusing on the years between 1670 and 1770. They decided to build Charles Towne Landing on a piece of land called “Old Town” in the West Ashley-are of Charleston on Highway 171. The chose this site because several historical documents suggested that it was the first British settlement in South Carolina. Upon breaking ground at the site in 1969, construction workers and archeologists discovered artifacts from the Kiawah who had originally lived at this site. This discovery caused a crisis about identity and memory that pervaded the local and state media.

In this dissertation, I conduct archival research of official documents from and related to the South Carolina Tricentennial Commission (1966-1970) to compose a narrative of how the park was built. I then analyze these documents considering their rhetorical nature, focusing on the implicit and explicit arguments of identity. I also analyze photographs of historical performances and celebrations of historical memory. Using this park and the methods of identity construction that the commission used as a case study, I argue that to analyze rhetorics of identity, rhetoricians must acknowledge and study their inherently defensive and antagonistic natures.

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