The Civil War Dead and American Modernity - Oxford Studies in American Literary History (Hardback)Ian Frederick Finseth (author)
Hardback 296 Pages / Published: 15/03/2018
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The Civil War Dead and American Modernity offers a fundamental rethinking of the cultural importance of the American Civil War dead. Tracing their representational afterlife across a massive array of historical, visual, and literary documents from 1861 to 1914, Ian Finseth maintains that the war dead played a central, complex, and paradoxical role in how Americans experienced and understood the modernization of the United States. From eyewitness accounts of battle to photographs and paintings, and from full-dress histories of the war to fictional narratives, Finseth shows that the dead circulated through American cultural life in ways that we have not fully appreciated, and that require an expanded range of interpretive strategies to understand. While individuals grieved and relinquished their own loved ones, the collective Civil War dead, Finseth argues, came to form a kind of symbolic currency that informed Americans' melancholic relationship to their own past. Amid the turbulence of the postbellum era, as the United States embarked decisively upon its technological, geopolitical, and intellectual modernity, the dead provided an illusion of coherence, intelligibility, and continuity in the national self. At the same time, they seemed to represent a traumatic break in history and the loss of a simpler world, and their meanings could never be completely contained by the political discourse that surrounded them. Reconstructing the formal, rhetorical, and ideological strategies by which postwar American society reimagined, and continues to reimagine, the Civil War dead, Finseth also shows that a strain of critical thought was alert to this dynamic from the very years of the war itself. The Civil War Dead and American Modernity is at once a study of the politics of mortality, the disintegration of American Victorianism, and the role of visual and literary art in both forming and undermining social consensus.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 544 g
Dimensions: 243 x 164 x 25 mm
"In The Civil War Dead and American Modernity, Ian Finseth assesses an extensive primary archive of photographs, paintings, lithographs, diaries, news accounts, and textual representations of the War that date from the War itself through our own recent sesquicentennial commemorations. He scrupulously traces what the archive shows us as well as its silences, presenting a powerful account of how the very idea of the 'Civil War dead' has played, and continues to play, a central role in the national imaginary." --Elizabeth Renker, Ohio State University
"Ambitious, theoretical, and moving, The Civil War Dead and American Modernity transforms an ongoing historical and literary conversation into a searching meditation. Exploring a range of cultural productions, Ian Finseth shows how memoir, painting and photography, historiography, and fiction render the dead into impersonal abstraction and de-individualize the fallen. Selecting an array of recognized and unknown nineteenth-century soldier-memoirists, visual artists, historians, and fiction writers, Finseth demonstrates how these figures crafted memorial testaments and shored up the ideology of national reunion. Accessible and sophisticated, Finseth's book offers a powerful meditation on the relation between war, death, and public memory." --Julia Stern, Northwestern University
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