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Honor & slavery : lies, duels, noses, masks, dressing as a woman, gifts, strangers, humanitarianism, death, slave rebellions, the proslavery argument, baseball, hunting, and gambling in the Old South /
Kenneth S. Greenberg.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1996.
description
xvi, 176 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
069102734X (cl : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1996.
isbn
069102734X (cl : alk. paper)
catalogue key
1813998
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [147]-169) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Kenneth S. Greenberg is Professor of History at Suffolk University.
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"A genuinely fresh contribution to our understanding of the culture of the Old South . . . Greenberg writes with charm, verve, and vigor."-- Eugene Genovese
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1996-04-15:
Greenberg (Masters and Statesmen, Johns Hopkins, 1988) provides an in-depth study of the language of honor in the Old South. He skillfully demonstrates how this language embraced a complex system of phrases, gestures, and behaviors that asserted authority or maintained respect. His examples portray a range of situations in which the works and gestures of honor came into play, for example, during heated arguments on the floor of the House of Representatives or when an impetuous gesture could easily lead to a duel, as it did between Henry Clay and John Randolph. Greenberg makes the situations comprehensible to the modern reader. His work gives a clear view of what it meant to live as a courageous free man in the Old South and should be required reading for anyone interested in its life and culture before the Civil War.-W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1996-03-18:
"I hope that I have established enough associations to have created an elementary primer of the language of honor," says Greenberg, a Suffolk University professor of history and author of Masters and Statesmen, at the end of this study of the Southern chivalric code. That code was held by "Southern Men of Honor" whose values, beliefs and behaviors determined what most Northern readers will see as not just one but many "peculiar institutions" south of the Mason-Dixon line. Many of Greenberg's observations offer revealing contextualizations. Particularly interesting are chapters on death and on the duel and its rather less drastic variation, the tweaking of the nose, a symbol of masculine honor. Sometimes, he stretches his points, as with the issue of lying when John Randolph says to a would-be guest: "Sir, I am not at home." "This interaction illuminates one meaning embedded in the idea of `giving the lie' in the culture of honor.... You did not own a lie until you were called a liar." (Greenberg also fails to make clear why he doesn't translate Randolph's "at home" in the 18th- and 19th-century sense in which it meant "accessible to strangers.") Greenberg argues that the slave-master relationship molded the conduct of Southern gentleman, conduct in which open confrontation, for example, by being associated with slaves was considered dishonorable. According to Greenberg, this same code caused baseball to be less popular in the South than in the North. "The act of running in baseball implied a change of position that seemed inappropriate to a man of honor." Gambling, on the other hand, was considered an appropriately elitist pastime and one, he says, that would inform Confederate strategists. "The Confederacy may well have lost the Civil War as a result of lessons learned at Southern card tables and racetracks." (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 1996-11-01:
Greenberg (Suffolk Univ.) examines the language of honor in the Old South. He identifies phrases, gestures, and behavior that he believes constitute a system used by rich and powerful slaveholders to assert authority and maintain respect. Betram Wyatt-Brown's Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (CH, Feb'83) is still the place to begin any study of honor in the antebellum South, but this book moves the discussion of honor in fresh directions. Greenberg asks questions about the meaning of freak shows, dueling, gambling, gift-giving, hunting, and other southern customs, and his answers are usually thought-provoking. He gives interesting analyses of the duel between John Randolph and Henry Clay and the insult a navy lieutenant leveled at Andrew Jackson when he may or may not have pulled the president's nose. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. E. M. Thomas Gordon College
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A piercing--and decidedly offbeat--look into the mind of the Old South. . . . Charged with ideas, this is a cheerfully speculative and valuable addition to the library of the Civil War."-- Kirkus Reviews
"A piercing--and decidedly offbeat--look into the mind of the Old South. . . . Greenberg handles his arguments deftly, full as they are of odd digressions, to show [a culture] with a unique code of custom and communication. . . . Charged with ideas, this is a cheerfully speculative and valuable addition to the library of the Civil War."-- Kirkus Reviews
"A surprisingly sprightly little volume that serves as a window into a world long gone. . . . Greenberg . . . is our tour guide in this forbidding, forgotten territory. He's knowledgeable and good-natured. He has an eye for detail, and just as important, an ear for nuance."-- David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe
"Greenberg provides an in-depth study of the language of honor in the Old South. He skillfully demonstrates how this language embraced a complex system of phrases, gestures, and behaviors that asserted authority or maintained respect. . . . His work gives a clear view of what it meant to live as a courageous free man in the Old South and should be required reading for anyone interested in its life and culture before the Civil War."-- Library Journal
"Greenberg's study is easy to praise. It is readable and insightful. . . . More important, it is a fine introduction to the new linguistic approaches to history, wherein dull and seemingly trivial customs can be made fun and important."-- John Mayfield, Georgia Historical Quarterly
"Greenberg's thesis and accompanying analysis are tightly interwoven. His discussion is both entertaining and thought provoking, and his conclusions fit well with other discussions of the role of honor in Southern history. . . . Highly readable and interesting."-- Robert P. Steed, The Review of Politics
"[Greenberg] writes with agreeable clarity, and in five short chapters, his easy, freewheeling style carries us a remarkably long way."-- Ian McIntyre, The [London] Times
"Many of Greenberg's observations offer revealing contextualizations. Particularly interesting are chapters on death and on the duel."-- Publishers Weekly
". . . should be required reading for anyone interested in its [Southern] life and culture before the Civil War."-- Library Journal
"This collection of intriguing essays is a worthy addition to the literature. . . [Greenberg] offers telling reflections on these subjects that sharpen the reader's appreciation for how different the world of slavery and honor was from our own. . . . We should acknowledge the vitality and versatility of the author's exemplary handling of a topic too long dwelling in the historical shadows."-- Bertram Wyatt-Brown, American Journal of Sociology
"This is an unusual book, and one that isn't easily categorized. For a historical work it's short and uncharacteristically wry, but Greenberg writes with a lexicographic and historical earnestness of purpose that doesn't allow him to slip into irony at the expense of his subject matter. . . .there's an awful lot of significance to be gleaned from the marginal and the superficial."-- Toby Lester, The Boston Book Review
"This is a valuable book. . . . Vivid and persuasive. . . . Given the engaging quality of Greenberg's writing, coupled with his notable ability to tell a story, the book should receive a wide audience among historians and an appreciative one among students of the nineteenth-century American South."-- Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., American Historical Review
"This volume works with great imagination and complexity to show how elite men understood themselves as slave owners and as men."-- Ted Ownby, Journal of Southern History
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, March 1996
Publishers Weekly, March 1996
Library Journal, April 1996
Choice, November 1996
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The "honorable men" who ruled the Old South had a language all their own, one comprised of many apparently outlandish features yet revealing much about the lives of masters and the nature of slavery. When we examine Jefferson Davis's explanation as to why he was wearing women's clothing when caught by Union soldiers, or when we consider the story of Virginian statesman John Randolph, who stood on his doorstep declaring to an unwanted dinner guest that he was "not at home," we see that conveying empirical truths was not the goal of their speech. Kenneth Greenberg so skillfully demonstrates, the language of honor embraced a complex system of phrases, gestures, and behaviors that centered on deep-rooted values: asserting authority and maintaining respect. How these values were encoded in such acts as nose-pulling, outright lying, dueling, and gift-giving is a matter that Greenberg takes up in a fascinating and original way. The author looks at a range of situations when the words and gestures of honor came into play, and he re-creates the contexts and associations that once made them comprehensible. We understand, for example, the insult a navy lieutenant leveled at President Andrew Jackson when he pulls his nose, once we understand how a gentleman valued his face, especially his nose, as the symbol of his public image. Greenberg probes the lieutenant's motivations by explaining what it meant to perceive oneself as dishonored and how such a perception seemed comparable to being treated as a slave. When John Randolph lavished gifts on his friends and enemies as he calmly faced the prospect of death in a duel with Secretary of State Henry Clay, his generosity had a paternalistic meaning echoed by the master-slave relationship and reflected in the pro-slavery argument. These acts, together with the way a gentleman chose to lend money, drink with strangers, go hunting, and die, all formed a language of control, a vision of what it meant to live as a courageous free man. In reconstructing the language of honor in the Old South, Greenberg reconstructs the world.
Unpaid Annotation
The honorable men who ruled the Old South had a language all their own, one comprised of many apparently outlandish features yet revealing much about the lives of masters and the nature of slavery. As Kenneth Greenberg skillfully demonstrates, the language of honor embraced a complex system of phrases, gestures, and behaviors that centered on deep-rooted values: asserting authority and maintaining respect. A surprisingly sprightly little volume that serves as a window into a world long gone.... Greenberg ... is our tour guide in this forbidding, forgotten territory. He's knowledgeable and good-natured. He has an eye for detail, and just as important, an ear for nuance.DLDavid M. Shribman, The Boston Globe [Greenberg] writes with agreeable clarity, and in five short chapters, his easy, freewheeling style carries us a remarkably long way.DLIan McIntyre, The [London] Times Many of Greenberg's observations offer revealing contextualizations. Particularly interesting are chapters on death and on the duel.DLPublishers Weekly A piercingDLand decidedly offbeatDLlook into the mind of the Old South.... Charged with ideas, this is a cheerfully speculative and valuable addition to the library of the Civil War.DLKirkus Reviews
Unpaid Annotation
The "honorable men" who ruled the Old South had a language all their own, one comprised of many apparently outlandish features yet revealing much about the lives of masters and the nature of slavery. When we examine Jefferson Davis's explanation as to why he was wearing women's clothing when caught by Union soldiers, or when we consider the story of Virginian statesman John Randolph, who stood on his doorstep declaring to an unwanted dinner guest that he was "not at home, " we see that conveying empirical truths was not the goal of their speech. Kenneth Greenberg so skillfully demonstrates, the language of honor embraced a complex system of phrases, gestures, and behaviors that centered on deep-rooted values: asserting authority and maintaining respect. How these values were encoded in such acts as nose-pulling, outright lying, dueling, and gift-giving is a matter that Greenberg takes up in a fascinating and original way. The author looks at a range of situations when the words and gesturesof honor came into play, and he re-creates the contexts and associations that once made them comprehensible. We understand, for example, the ins
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
The Nose, the Lie, and the Duelp. 3
Masks and Slaveryp. 24
Gifts, Strangers, Duels, and Humanitarianismp. 51
Deathp. 87
Baseball, Hunting, and Gamblingp. 115
Notesp. 147
Indexp. 171
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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