Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Katharine Rodier

Second Advisor

Mary Moore

Third Advisor

Christopher Green


On November 2, 1859, John Brown laid siege to the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, then Virginia, in an effort to seize weaponry which he planned to employ in a full scale slave insurrection. From the moment he entered the public eye during his brief trial and execution, John Brown and his legacy were figured and refigured by prominent writers and thinkers of the time. The result of this refiguring was an image under constant metamorphosis. As the image of John Brown cycled through the Civil War, it moved further and further from the actual man and became a metaphor for the cause he supported and finally for the conflict that arose from that cause. By exploring these writers’ works on Brown collectively rather than exclusively, a more fully developed, if at times contradictory, view of this figure can be extracted, reflecting the ever changing views of a nation engulfed by war.


Authors, American - 19th century.

Brown, John, 1800-1859 - In literature.