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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » From Battlefields Rising: How The Civil War Transformed American Literature » User review

Warning from our Truth in Titling department: misleading subtitle

  • May 7, 2012
Rating:
+1
From the subtitle of this book, I was expecting a broad-scope discussion of how American literature before and after the American Civil War was changed.  In fact the focus and appeal of this book is much narrower:
  • Time:  The focus is actually on how American literature was transformed during the years the Civil War was progressing, not afterward.  This was a major disappointment to me, because the period after the Civil War through World War one saw a major flowering of American literature, science, thought, and culture, and I expected this book to give some insight into the fertilization the Civil War provided to that bloom.  Not here.  
  • Space:  the focus here is just on a very small set of writers active before and during the war:  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  These are all New Englanders, and essentially represent the Transcendentalist abolitionist movement--all fine writers from a great literary and political tradition, but hardly one which justifies the appellation "American Literature" applied in the subtitle.  There was then and remains still a certain amount of arrogance and assumption that the war and its aims was selected, defined, approved, and won by them; this arrogance and assumption is resented and hated by many outside their geographical, religious, and political clic; the misleading subtitle of this book doesn't help.

Within that context, if you are seeking a well-studied analysis of how the writing of the New England Transcendentalists was changed during the years of 1861 to 1865, this book is for you and you will rate it higher than I have here.  For the rest, it will have only passing interest.

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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #38
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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"When the volcano of Civil War erupted in 1861, American literature had already achieved maturity in the writings of Emerson, Melville, Whitman, Hawthorne, and others. All of them, plus new voices like Emily Dickinson, tried to understand and express the profound meaning of the war in their writings, which Randall Fuller skillfully dissects in this original and incisive volume."-James M. McPherson, author ofBattle Cry of Freedom
"In this lucid and insightful work, Randall Fuller probes the creative and intellectual responses of some of the nation's greatest writers to the Civil War. The result is a luminous and revealing portrait of American literary culture in a period of volcanic eruption."-Louis P. Masur, author ofTheCivil War: A Concise History

"This is a beautiful, powerful book, uniting the pivotal event of American history with the defining literature of the nation. Fuller's account is filled with humanity, eloquence, and surprise. Anyone who reads this book will see both the Civil War and America's iconic authors with new eyes."--Edward Ayers, author ofIn The Presence of Mine Enemies
"Fuller's book is a moving excursion through the writers who found their language altered by the convulsions of the American Civil War. From Alcott to Emerson, Dickinson to Douglass, Melville to Hawthorne, Fuller traces connections both familiar and strange, granting careful attention to new literary configurations in the wake of war."-Shirley Samuels, author ofFacing America: Iconography ...
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