From Battlefields Rising: How The Civil War Transformed American Literature
"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 … see full wiki
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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