“Something isn’t right here”: American exceptionalism and the creative nonfiction of the Vietnam War

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dc.contributor.advisor Gibbs, Alan en
dc.contributor.advisor Allen, Graham en
dc.contributor.author Griffin, Ross
dc.date.accessioned 2015-11-17T09:38:44Z
dc.date.issued 2015
dc.date.submitted 2015
dc.identifier.citation Griffin, R. 2015. “Something isn’t right here”: American exceptionalism and the creative nonfiction of the Vietnam War. PhD Thesis, University College Cork. en
dc.identifier.endpage 211
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10468/2063
dc.description.abstract In this thesis, I argue that few attempts were as effective in correcting the exceptionalist ethos of the United States than the creative nonfiction written by the veterans and journalists of the Vietnam War. Using critical works on creative nonfiction, I identify the characteristics of the genre that allowed Paul John Eakin to call it ‘a special kind of fiction.’ I summarise a brief history of creative nonfiction to demonstrate how it became a distinctly American form despite its Old World origins. I then claim that it was the genre most suited to the kind of ideological transformation that many hoped to instigate in U.S. society in the aftermath of Vietnam. Following this, the study explores how this “new” myth-making process occurred. I use Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone and Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War to illustrate how autobiography/memoir was able to demonstrate the detrimental effect that America’s exceptionalist ideology was having on its population. Utilising narrative and autobiographical theory, I contend that these accounts represented a collective voice which spoke for all Americans in the years after Vietnam. Using Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie and C.D.B. Bryan’s Friendly Fire, I illustrate how literary journalism highlighted the hubris of the American government. I contend that while poiesis is an integral attribute of creative nonfiction, by the inclusion of extraneous bibliographic material, authors of the genre could also be seen as creating a literary context predisposing the reader towards an empirical interpretation of the events documented within. Finally, I claim that oral histories were in their essence a synthesis of “everyman” experiences very much in keeping with the American zeitgeist of the early Eighties. Focussing solely on Al Santoli’s Everything We Had, I demonstrate how such polyphonic narratives personalised the history of the Vietnam War. en
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher University College Cork en
dc.rights © 2015, Ross Griffin. en
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ en
dc.subject American literature en
dc.subject Creative nonfiction en
dc.subject Vietnam War en
dc.subject American exceptionalism en
dc.subject Autobiography en
dc.subject Memoir en
dc.subject Literary journalism en
dc.subject Oral history en
dc.subject Cultural politics en
dc.subject Literary theory en
dc.subject Cultural theory en
dc.subject Genre theory en
dc.subject War writing en
dc.subject War literature en
dc.title “Something isn’t right here”: American exceptionalism and the creative nonfiction of the Vietnam War en
dc.type Doctoral thesis en
dc.type.qualificationlevel Doctoral en
dc.type.qualificationname PhD (Arts) en
dc.internal.availability Full text available en
dc.check.info Please note that Chapters 1-4 (pp.38-192) are unavailable due to a restriction requested by the author. en
dc.check.date 2020-11-15T09:38:44Z
dc.description.version Accepted Version
dc.description.status Not peer reviewed en
dc.internal.school English en
dc.check.reason This thesis is due for publication or the author is actively seeking to publish this material en
dc.check.opt-out Not applicable en
dc.thesis.opt-out false
dc.check.chapterOfThesis Chapters of thesis - 1,2,3,4
dc.check.embargoformat E-thesis on CORA only en
ucc.workflow.supervisor a.gibbs@ucc.ie
dc.internal.conferring Summer Conferring 2015

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