E 376L • Literature, Cultural Memory, and the American Civil War (Honors)
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
Restricted to students admitted to the English Honors Program.
In the 140+ years since the defeat of the Confederate States of America more than 60,000 books and pamphlets about the American Civil War have been published. (To put this staggering figure in context, this is a publication rate of nearly one book per day every day since the cessation of hostilities.) For many, this persistent interest in the war speaks to the continued relevance of the issues raised by, and addressed in, America's "great internecine conflict": slavery, race, regional identity, political sovereignty, federalism, etc. Several cultural historians have gone so far as to suggest that the Civil War is still being fought--not on the battlefields of Chickamauga, Manassas, or Antietam, but on the battlefield of American cultural memory. This course will consider the American Civil War (1861-1865) not in terms of its military or political history but in relation to the ways literary and cultural texts have remembered and rewritten it. Our discussion will focus on five periods of American cultural memory: the immediate postwar period (i.e., 1865-1867), the 1890s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s. How did subsequent generations narrate the causes and effects of the war? How do contemporary events affect the way a given generation reads and rewrites the war? What agendas are being brought to bear on representations of this fierce and bloody conflict?
Participation (i.e., attendance, in-class and electronic discussion) 10%
Final research project 50%
Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War
Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
Fleming, Selznick, et al, Gone with the Wind
Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War
Burns, The Civil War
Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic
In addition, we will read poetry by Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Frances E.W. Harper, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Lowell, and Derek Walcott; short fiction by Silas Weir Mitchell, Flannery O'Connor, and George Saunders; essays by Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington; and songs by Bob Dylan and The Band.