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Diane Miller Sommerville
SUNY Research Foundation, Binghamton (Binghamton, NY 13902-4400)
Aberration of Mind: Suicide, the Civil War and the American South

While historians have vigorously studied many aspects of the Civil War and Confederate loss, scant attention has been directed to the personal and psychological impact of loss and suffering on southerners. Yet given the wide swath of physical devastation, economic calamity, and pervasive death that was the legacy of war, personal suffering surely took a devastating psychological toll on southerners. This project takes a two-pronged approach to the study of suicide and the Civil War. Part one is a social history of suicide, a perspective that examines the everyday lives of southern men and women, how they dealt with suicide, and how their family and neighbors responded to incidents of suicide. The second part of the project is a cultural study of suicide. It encompasses the discourse of suicide in political, religious, medical and literary arenas. The Civil War, I argue, played a crucial role in transforming the way southerners regarded suicide, from taboo to heroic sacrifice.

Project fields:
U.S. History

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2011 – 7/31/2012