Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Sandra J Sarkela

Committee Member

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

Katherine Grace Hendrix

Committee Member

Douglas W. Cupples


This dissertation seeks to answer two questions: 1) How has the reputation of Nathan Bedford Forrest been presented by various scholars? 2) How are controversial reputations developed, maintained as well as challenged? I answer these questions by focusing on three specific controversies in Forrest's life; his role as a slave-trader, his role at the Battle of Fort Pillow, and his role in the Ku Klux Klan. My research focuses on three distinct sets of text: two Congressional testimonies, twenty-one biographies, and two-hundred-fourteen newspaper articles conveniently sampled from three newspapers.The consolidated data from the texts explores the various rhetorical strategies authors have used in presenting Forrest and his reputation to readers while contemporary rhetorical theorists as well as Whately were used to identify how each text has contributed to a greater understanding of Forrest's reputation and credibility via reception history to readers over time. My approach observed both the manner Forrest was presented with particular words and descriptions in addition to exploring motives of particular authors. Results indicate that Forrest has become a condensation symbol, representative of something beyond literal definitions, whereby pluralistic and partisan interpretations have resulted in Forrest's name and image used polemically. Results also indicate that Forrest's reputation has been selectively presented, creating confusion between separating historical and mythological conceptions of Forrest to readers.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.