Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Carolyn Eichner

Committee Members

Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Christopher Forth, Ivan Ascher, Neal Pease


France, Gender, Masculinity, nineteenth century, Socialism


Social theorist and activist, August Blanqui, used his appearance before court in 1832 to lay out an argument that condemned the present political and economic system and demanded emancipation of the male worker. During his monologue, along with his devastating portrayal of worker misery and systemic corruption, Blanqui made comparisons between the male bourgeoisie and the male proletariat. Recounting the recent overthrow of Charles X for his audience, Blanqui described the “glorious workers” as six feet tall, towering over a groveling bourgeoisie who praised them for their “selflessness and courage.” According to Blanqui, the workers, unlike the aristocracy of wealth who oppressed them, were both physically dominant and selfless—two features that indicated a superior masculinity in the minds of radicals.

Blanqui’s comparison between the bourgeoisie and proletariat reflected a rhetorical strategy found elsewhere amongst socialists. This tactic, following French political logic, demanded the usurpation of bourgeois masculinity as ideal and thus the symbolic representation of the French nation. In this context, appeals to justice could not suffice. Rather, one had to convince others that the proletariat possessed a greater or more authentic masculinity. This work uncovers a gendered rhetorical strategy used by socialists throughout the nineteenth century, one that claimed the superiority of proletarian masculinity over both the bourgeoisie and the religious male as a necessary feature of their activism on behalf of the workers.