Summer 2018 Undergraduate English Courses: Seminars

358:442 Re-Writing and Re-Fighting the Civil War

H1  7/9-8/15  CAC  MTWTH 1030 AM-1220  04334  LESLIE  AB-2250

Re-Writing and Re-Fighting the Civil War

As recent conflicts over Confederate monuments have shown, the American Civil War remains hotly contested over one hundred and fifty years after its conclusion: why did it begin? what did soldiers or politicians on either side fight for? what was the result? who really “won”? If even such fundamental questions as these seem unclear to so many people, it’s because the story of the Civil War has been retold so many times and for so many different reasons that the war itself has become less important than the stories we tell about it. Since before the dust of battle settled up to our present moment, the Civil War has been revisited as a means of debating racial equality, masculinity, government expansion, and economic inequality. More than anything else, these new socio-political battles were waged in art or depended upon it: film, music, painting, monuments, and, especially, literature. This class will explore how and why the Civil War was re-imagined and re-contested from 1860 to 1940 in order to understand the foundations of the stories we continue to tell about it.

In this course we will examine poetry by Herman Melville, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Walt Whitman, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, fiction by Stephen Crane, Loreta Janeta Velázquez, John De Forest, and Ambrose Bierce, and movies like The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, in addition to related political documents, music, and visual arts. Course grades will be determined by participation and two papers.