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The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865 (Civil War America) Hardcover – January 22, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[A] fascinating book." -- NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

Review

Fahs's book fills the niche on Civil War literature in describing the warring literary face-off during the bloodiest conflict in the American history.--American Studies International|Immensely valuable. . . . An important contribution even to overburdened Civil War bookshelves. . . . [Fahs] has raised popular literary expression to a visible source; using this literature, she has provided answers to what the war's meaning was; and finally she has established categorical conceptualizations that will remain useful benchmarks for subsequent studies of the Civil War.--Journal of American History|Alice Fahs's exploration of the Civil War's popular literature offers an unparalleled view into the responses of millions of Americans, North and South, to the devastating conflict. With analytic acuity and graceful prose, Fahs shows us how newspapers, novels, magazines, poems, and children's books grappled with the essential personal and ideological dilemmas posed by the war. This is an innovative and highly important book for our understanding of the war and its meaning.--Drew Gilpin Faust, author of Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War|The Imagined Civil War provides a much-needed perspective into the mental lives of northerners and southerners who tried to understand a world that was engulfed in violence and death, and changing in ways that few could have imagined.--North and South|Informative, original and engaging.--Southern Literary Journal|[A] sparkling study. . . . The most intriguing aspect . . . is its discussion of magazine stories and books written for children which not only shaped their perceptions of the earthshaking events of their youth but also influenced their worldview as adults during the postwar era." --James McPherson, The Wall Street Journal, 'Five Best Books on the Civil War away from the battlefield'|A strong book with engaging prose, dramatic verbs, and subtle humor. Fahs's argument challenges the prevailing belief that the war organized a new dominant nationalism.--Journal of Southern History|[Earns] a place on every nineteenth-century literary theorist and Civil War historian's bookshelf. . . . Fahs makes a brilliant argument for the significance of popular culture in the war.--American Historical Review|[A] fascinating book. . . . One of the major strengths of this fine book is Fahs's insightful discussion of the changing image of black people in Northern popular literature. . . . Fahs has . . . managed to give us new and valuable insights into the wartime South, and her treatment of Northern popular literature is a signal contribution to our understanding of Civil War America.--New York Times Book Review|Filled with rich insights. . . . By illuminating a critical aspect of American popular thought during the period of sectional conflict, Alice Fahs adds considerably to our historical knowledge of the Civil War era.--Civil War History|Alice Fahs makes a valuable contribution to the trend of studying the war in its larger context in The Imagined Civil War.--History of Education Quarterly|The subject is fascinating. . . . The author finds enduring truths and themes that have evaded historians and novelists who are still waiting, unsatisfied with Gone with the Wind as the great literary epic or novel of the Civil War. . . . Fahs has illuminated a fresh aspect of America's greatest drama.--Washington Times|[A] widely researched and elegantly written work. . . . Fahs makes a brilliant argument for the significance of popular culture in the war. Her work will undoubtedly open the door to a more engaged and informed discussion of the role of cultural forms, especially popular cultural forms, in what we now tend to see almost entirely as the consequence of the political and military history of the Civil War.--American Historical Review|In this sparkling study, Alice Fahs rescues the vast outpouring of popular literature written during the Civil War from undeserved obscurity. Far from being the 'unwritten war' described by 'highbrow' literary historians, the conflict produced fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that interpreted a people's war to the people and was characterized by greater inclusivity of race and gender than we had previously recognized.--James M. McPherson, Princeton University|Fahs's book is a sustained, highly readable, and objectively critical survey of the popular literature of the war years. Her research is impressive, and while her tone is light, it is always respectful of her material. It is a useful study for both the historian and the general reader and provides fresh insight into a field which one would have thought was already exhausted.--Maryland Historical Quarterly
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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (January 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807825816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807825815
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,186,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Sopher on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book brings out the significance of popular culture during war. Aside from the soldiers who fought in both armies, and the politicians who attempted to build their respective nations, the true meaning of the Civil War came from those on the home front. It was these "citizens," of both the North and South, who through war-related literature such as books, newspapers, poems, magazines, and pamphlets, challenged the ideological pose of war. This "imagined war" was meant to bring inspiration or to put events or certain characters into context.

Fahs focuses primarily on the contributions from female writers who composed numerous short stories, poetry, music, letters, and novels in the war. Literature from men is not excluded as the author brings in the influences of Walt Whitman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others who contributed mightily to the written aspects of the war. Few military and political materials are presented in this work, and the author generally excludes much of the religious substance found in antebellum literature. Though Fahs incorporates several avenues of African American writings, no publications devoted to emancipation are included in this book.

The depictions of blacks during the war's first two years in the widely known Harpers Weekly and Frank Leslie's was meant as humor but portrayed as degrading. However, after Lincoln's Emancipation these images gave way to illustrations of black manhood and heroism, a point made clear in The Imagined Civil War as "tentative and halting."(13) It emphasized that even though this war represented "black freedom," blacks were still seen as the lesser race, and this further exemplifies the constant changes of the popular images of African Americans.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alfonso on November 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It had a good beat and was easy to dance to.Good information on civil war popular literature, north & south.
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