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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A regular guy: The antiwar memoir of a Vietnam vet
by Uhl, Michael, Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2002, 672; 3046263
Abstract (Summary)

A unifying memoir narrative threads the entire text of A Regular Guy: The Antiwar Memoir of a Vietnam Vet, while the social and historical contexts for the work's autobiographical elements are ever widening as the story unfolds. The work is divided into two parts.

Book I begins with Days of Slumber, a background sketch of a boy—myself—growing up in a materially secure and conformist suburb of Long Island just after World War II. Here the work seeks to capture several broad external influences that explain, beyond the internal dynamics of family and psychology that more closely typify the memoir idiom, how I came to serve in Vietnam, and why my subsequent political and social awakening should not be misconstrued as a “conversion experience” rooted exclusively in the horrors of war. Military training and a stint of stateside duty provide the setting for a subsequent study, Days of Wakening , which explores the deep aversion I felt toward serving in the military. Despite my assignment to the comparatively elite Counterintelligence Corps, where I was exempt from the more robotic rituals of the parade ground and camp discipline, the confining dimensions of garrison life gave palpable and immediate scope to my already symptomatic social alienation. So much so that I volunteered for war to escape the army. In Vietnam, I would find both a life long subject and, more importantly, an existential raison d'etre. Days of War, is my memoir of that experience, where I learned, if nothing else, what I would really be willing to fight for—or, in this case—against.

Book Two chronicles, through sixteen contiguous episodes, my immediate post-war years as a front line activist in the anti-Vietnam War Veterans Movement. It is in the recalling of these Days of Reckoning, that I witness my personality, chronically ambivalent and passive, suddenly explode into action, to the point of shameless self-projection upon the stage of history. After Vietnam, the antiwar movement struck me as, not just the only rational alternative to political apathy, but the psychological alternative to madness. A structural shift gradually occurs in the manuscript's second half, as I, the memorist, relinquish my centrality in the on-going first person narrative in favor of a more distanced micro-historical study—buttressed amply by citations—of the New Left's political culture as practiced by a small band of radicals—including myself—eager to organize antiwar veterans around the issue of American atrocities in Vietnam.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Arditti, Rita
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 63/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Journalism, American history
Keywords: Antiwar, Memoir, Vietnam veterans, War crimes
Publication Number: 3046263
ISBN: 978-0-493-60129-8
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