Sunday, March 10, 2019

Booknotes: Civil War Writing

New Arrival:
Civil War Writing: New Perspectives on Iconic Texts edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Stephen Cushman (LSU Press, 2019).

Nice cover!
Gary Gallagher has been busy, co-editing at least three titles released during the first three months of 2019 alone. The latest is the nine-essay collection Civil War Writing: New Perspectives on Iconic Texts, his editing partner for this project being Stephen Cushman.

Chapters "focus on the most significant writing about the American Civil War by participants who lived through it, whether as civilians or combatants, southerners or northerners, women or men, blacks or whites. Collectively, as contributors show, these writings have sustained their influence over generations and include histories, memoirs, journals, novels, and one literary falsehood posing as an autobiographical narrative. Several of the works, such as William Tecumseh Sherman’s memoirs or Mary Chesnut’s diary, are familiar to scholars, but other accounts, including Charlotte Forten’s diary and Loreta Velasquez’s memoir, offer new material to even the most omnivorous Civil War reader. In all cases, a deeper look at these writings reveals why they continue to resonate with audiences more than 150 years after the end of the conflict." It's a very fresh and interesting idea for an anthology.

Getting back to the rest of the contents, Gallagher reexamines the Porter Alexander memoir that everyone knows he considers the finest written by a Confederate soldier. Two more famous Confederate military memoirs and memoirists are also scrutinized, with Kathryn Shively taking on Jubal Early and Keith Bohannon reevaluating what John B. Gordon's Reminiscences tells us about Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Cedar Creek. Cushman's entry is a bit different in that he chose to look at selections from the Sherman and Johnston writings pertaining to the surrender proceedings rather than a published book. Remaining chapters include Elizabeth Varon's take on Joseph Wilson's The Black Phalanx and Matt Gallman's appreciation of Louisa May Alcott's northern home front novel Little Women.

More from the description: "As supporting evidence for historical and biographical narratives and as deliberately designed communications, the writings discussed in this collection demonstrate considerable value. Whether exploring the differences among drafts and editions, listening closely to fluctuations in tone or voice, or tracing responses in private correspondence or published reviews, the essayists examine how authors wrote to different audiences and out of different motives, creating a complex literary record that offers rich potential for continuing evaluation of the country’s greatest national trauma." All of the contributions "underscore how participants employed various literary forms to record, describe, and explain aspects and episodes of a conflict that assumed proportions none of them imagined possible at the outset."

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you wish to comment, please sign your name. Otherwise, your submission may be rejected, at the moderator's discretion. Comments containing outside promotions and/or links will be deleted.