SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Ragged Dicks

Ragged Dicks

Masculinity, Steel, and the Rhetoric of the Self-Made Man

Add to Cart

James V. Catano


Paperback (Other formats: NLEB)
288 pages, 6 x 9


Additional Materials

About the Book

Portraits of self-made men are rife in Western culture, as James V. Catano observes. Positive and negative, admittedly fictional and ostensibly factual, these portraits endure because the general rhetorical practice embodied in the myth of the self-made man enacts both the need and the very means for making oneself masculine: verbal power and prowess. The myth of the self-made man, in short, is part of ongoing rhetorical practices that constitute society, culture, and subjects.

To explain those practices and their effectiveness, Catano argues that the basic narrative achieves much of its effectiveness by engaging and enacting the traditional psychological dynamics of the family romance: preoedipal separation, oedipal conflict, and “proper” postoedipal self-definition and socialization.

To focus on the combined social, psychological, and rhetorical dynamics that constitute the ongoing activity he calls masculine self-making, Catano emphasizes a particular strand: masculinity and steelmaking. Pursuing that strand, he argues that these representations of masculine self-making are rhetorical enactments of cultural needs and desires, and that they are ongoing and formative arguments about what society and its individuals either are or should be.


James V. Catano, professor of English at Louisiana State University and a member of the women’s and gender studies program, is the coordinator of the Writing and Culture Concentration. He is the author of Language, History, Style: Leo Spitzer and the Critical Tradition.


“Examining narratives of the self-made man from Carnegie to Iacocca, with African-American, ethnic, and worker narratives included, this book shows the persuasive powers of [the story of the self-made man] in creating and re-creating masculinity. This book will help articulate the relationship of rhetoric and psychoanalysis beyond the limits of individualism to cultural questions of gender, race, and class.”—Suzanne Clark, author of Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West