Portraits of self-made men are rife in Western culture, as James V. Catano observes in this text. 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 shoty, 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: pre-oedipal separation, oedipal conflict, and ""proper"" post-oedipal self-definition and socialization.
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.