Saturday, May 23, 2020

Booknotes: The Enduring Lost Cause

New Arrival:
The Enduring Lost Cause: Afterlives of a Redeemer Nation edited by Edward R. Crowther
(UT Press, 2020).

This new anthology is inspired by Charles R. Wilson's Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920. Wilson's book was published forty years ago and reprinted in paperback format in 2009 (both versions released by University of Georgia Press). At least from what I can gather, what's new to the paperback second edition is the inclusion of a preface essay summarizing the historiographical developments that came about during the three decades preceding original publication.

Edited by Edward Crowther and published by University of Tennessee Press, The Enduring Lost Cause consists of twelve original essays, including a contribution by Wilson. They "show how various aspects of the Lost Cause ideology persist into the present. The Enduring Lost Cause examines the lasting legacy of a belief system that sought to vindicate the antebellum South and the Confederate fight to preserve it. Contributors treat such topics as symbolism, the perpetuation of the Lost Cause in education, and the effects of the Lost Cause on gender and religion, as well as examining ways the ideology has changed over time."

The essays "help the reader understand the development of a cultural phenomenon that affected generations of southerners and northerners alike, arising out of the efforts of former Confederates to make sense of their defeat, even at the expense of often mythologizing it. From fresh looks at towering figures of the Lost Cause (to reexamining the role of African Americans in disseminating the ideology (in the form of a religious explanation for suffering), the essayists carefully analyze the tensions between the past and the present, true belief and commercialization, continuity and change."

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