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Grant number: FT-60742-13

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Ian Finseth
University of North Texas (Denton, TX 76203-5017)

The Civil War Dead and American Modernity

This book challenges dominant accounts of the literary and cultural importance of the American Civil War dead. Noting that the sesquicentennial of the war has generated a surge of interest in Civil War mortality, I argue that our fascination with the dead is symptomatic of a deeply rooted cultural dynamic, dating to the war itself, whereby their loss is reimagined as the future's gain and the mystery of their experience subordinated to a teleological narrative of American modernity. I maintain that, in the Civil War dead's passage from physical bodies to literary and visual images to historical constructs, they have become monuments to national continuity and social coherence, and that modern scholarship is itself implicated in that process. Focusing on the origins of this problem in the nineteenth century, I investigate the ways in which visual, literary, and historical modes of representation shaped the meaning of the dead for future generations.

Project fields:
American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2013 – 7/31/2013