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Four Vietnams: Conflicting Versions of the Indochina Conflict from Cold War to the Global War on Terror argues that there is no single historical consensus among Americans on the Vietnam War. There are, instead, four different "Vietnams" in American popular and literary culture: an early Cold War version of Vietnam as an Asian "domino" susceptible of collapsing to Communism and thereby causing its neighbors to collapse successively; a 1960s and early 1970s version of the American enterprise in Vietnam as an imperialist war, an "immoral and criminal" attempt to suppress an indigenous people's will to political and economic independence; a late 1970s version of the war as a "tragedy without villains" for which nobody could really be held morally accountable; and finally, a version of the war as a "noble cause," an altruistic, benevolent attempt to save the Vietnamese people from the horrors of Communism. Four Vietnams attempts to demonstrate that each of these four "versions" take shape at successive stages in American culture during the second half of the twentieth century as responses to particular historical conditions and circumstances, and I also argue that each of the four interpretive schemas is grounded in a particular ideology, be it Eisenhower-era anticommunist liberalism, the leftist critique of imperialism and capitalism, post-Vietnam Carter liberalism, or post-Vietnam Reagan conservatism. The dissertation also examines the relationships between a series of texts (novels, films, nonfiction books, popular songs) in which the Vietnam War or some aspect of the war is a central feature and the formation of these "versions" and the reigning discourse on the war. Lastly, I attempt to show how discourse on the Global War on Terrorism often reads American involvement in the Middle East today through the same interpretive schemes that have been applied to Vietnam and how Vietnam is often invoked in radically different ways by warring ideological camps in the current debate as an analogy to the current military and political situation both abroad and within the United States itself.
Vietnam War, Indochina Conflict, Global War on Terrrior
Date of Defense
April 28, 2005.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
William T. Lhamon, Jr., Professor Directing Dissertation; Neil Jumonville, Outside Committee Member; Dennis Moore, Committee Member; Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., Committee Member.
Florida State University
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