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Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine Hardcover – April 27, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0691102719 ISBN-10: 0691102716
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Editorial Reviews


"A book of rare intelligence and eloquence."--Library Journal

"Thoughtfully written, well illustrated with contemporary imagery, and meticulously documented, this volume makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the utility of the past."--Choice

"The story told here is a multifaceted one. Most obviously it offers a fresh perspective on the contested memory of the Civil War. It is no less important as a window on the social history of leisure and tourism."--Adam Smith, History Today

"Weeks makes a convincing case that Gettysburg owes its special status to the marketplace. Nationalists might not like to hear it, but the shrine that prompts so much flag waving and solemn devotion is also a major moneymaker."--Damon W. Root, Reason

"As both hallowed shrine and theme park, Gettysburg paradoxically offers Americans a sacred haven from our obsessive commercialism and an exciting marketplace experience. How local promoters began this process almost as soon as the shooting stopped, and how even today's park purists maintain this subtle, clever masking, make Weeks' Gettysburg an absorbing venture in cultural history."--Blue & Gray Magazine

"[This] work not only fills a long-unaddressed gap in Gettysburg's vast historiography but also provides a noteworthy contribution to the larger debate over battlefield preservation and interpretation."--Joseph Pierro, Civil War History

From the Inside Flap

"Looking at succeeding generations of tourists and pilgrims to the site--the genteel, the veterans, the masses, and finally the reenactors--Weeks gives us a lively, engaging, argumentative, and very well-written analysis of the commercial uses made of Gettysburg since before the bones were buried until the present day."--Michael Fellman, author of The Making of Robert E. Lee and Citizen Sherman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691102716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691102719
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,850,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent volume; the introduction alone is
practically worth the price of the book. It is an accurate and
unflinching look at the town of Gettysburg and its history and
development since the battle. It will probably be unpopular
with the faction who prefer their history sugarcoated and
uncritical, but for those who seek the real history, this is it.
For many, Gettysburg has become a shrine to be revered, a
veritable home of saints and holy relics. This book looks at the complete picture, "warts and all," and it will especially
resonate with the "baby boomer" generation who came of age in the 1950's and 1960's. An excellent study and a fine
addition to the Gettysburg canon!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Theo Logos on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jim Weeks' has created a fascinating study of American culture, class, and capitalism, over the past one hundred and forty years by chronicling and dissecting our changing relationship to the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park. This shrine became a tourist attraction before the bodies were buried, and remains one of our best known national shrines and most popular of tourist attractions to this day. Yet for each generation, Gettysburg has had a different meaning, appealed to different social classes for different reasons, and has been marketed differently. Weeks has examined the changing appeal of Gettysburg to the American psyche to draw some conclusions on how we view our history and see ourselves through it, how and why we create our national myths, and, in short, how we imagine and re-imagine ourselves as a people.
This book hit close to home for me, because my childhood experience fit squarely within its scope. My father was a Civil War buff, and our family made several pilgrimages to Gettysburg. Numerous black and white photos show me as a kid posing with Yankee cap, sword and gun on various cannons and monuments throughout the park. Our oft told family legend even claims that Dad took Mom to Gettysburg on their honeymoon. When Weeks wrote chapter six; `Automobiles and Family Touring', he could have been working from our family albums.
This is a book of social historical criticism, and if you prefer to take our national mythology at face value rather than questioning it, you should probably pass on it. Weeks is aggressive, perhaps even elitist, in the way he questions our social conventions, and he seems to like to poke sacred cows just to hear them moo. None of that changes the fact that he has written a fascinating book full of intriguing ideas. Despite his somewhat arrogant tone, Weeks' book is well worth reading.

Theo Logos
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Almost immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, (July 1 -- July 3, 1863), Americans recognized that a pivotal event in the Nation's history had occurred. The tactics and strategies used by the Armies, the significance of the Battle to the result of the Civil War and to the nature and purpose of our country continue to be debated vigorously.
Literally at the moment the armies left Gettysburg with the dead and wounded still on the field, tourists began to visit the battlefield, some to gape from curiosity and some to ponder the battle and its significance.
Jim Weeks's "Gettysburg: Memory, Market and an American Shrine" (2003) tells the story of tourism at Gettysburg and of its changes in character over the years as the United States changed. He sees a basic tension in Gettysburg visitors and in the manner in which Gettysburg is presented to its visitors. On the one hand, Gettysburg is a shrine, hallowed ground, commemorating an important event in our history. It is thus a place for contemplation and reflection about the American experience. On the other hand, Gettysburg is a tourist destination and a place of pleasure and commercialism Visitors come seeking souvenirs, good food, hotels, and entertainment. Those purveying the town and its attractions to the visitors are interested in earning a living and in commercial success.
Weeks does a good job tracing the relationship between these goals as he examines the history of tourist visits to Gettysburg. He shows how after the battle Gettysburg appealed to "genteel tourists" who had the leisure and means to travel. With the resurgence of veterans groups, the battlefield became bedecked with monuments which required leisure to read and to comtemplate.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Buck Hummer on March 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really looked forward to getting this book; I have a keen interest in all things Gettysburg; the battle itself, the aftermath, the monuments, and the history of the battlefield and the park. Having just finished reading it, I have some mixed opinions about it.

On the plus side the material is extremely well researched...exhaustive, in fact. Weeks has an abundance of knowledge about the subject and introduces many hidden little gems of information that would be of interest to anyone who has visited Gettysburg and is fascinated in the history of the park and the town, and the commercial aspects of its history.

As for the negative impressions... it is obvious that the author is an extremely intelligent fellow with quite an extensive vocabulary.... and unfortunately he cannot resist the urge to display it at every turn, to the detriment of the subject at hand. While reading this book, I kept wondering if it was written to inform or to impress.

It would appear in the first section of the book as if the author receives a royalty for each use of the term "genteel"; it is used so frequently and with such abandon as to become almost farcical. Ditto with terms such as "quotidian", "insouciance" and endless variations of the word "edify". After awhile, the semantic gymnastics become simply annoying and tedious. Think of the singer who feels compelled to "interpret" the Star Spangled Banner with vocal histrionics as opposed to just singing the song, and you get an idea of the author's writing style.

Equally grating throughout is the author's inclination to make highly judgmental conclusions about the varied tourists over the years, their yearning for "moral uplift", etc. It is as though we are reading an anthropological treatise.
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