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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first comprehensive look at C.W. literature, May 2, 2006
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. Southern literature remained committed to portraying blacks as satisfied with slavery. This would turn later from a role of subordination to a celebration of Southern heritage that was clearly fictional from the beginning. Not surprisingly, Fahs fails to incorporate much literature written by blacks (especially from females), as not much material was printed during the war. As seen Margaret Creighton's Colors of Courage, remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died for "black freedom" took preference over these people of color in the memory of the war.

Another recurring theme presented is the importance of gender in Civil War literature. Interestingly enough, northern depictions of a mother's emotional sacrifice as the same as men's heroism gave rise to women as "active heroines"-though gender differences still existed. Fahs does illustrate the South as less willing to incorporate women into its literature, because most there failed to see women outside of the home. These portrayals further demonstrate that during wartime women were generally perceived in a different light, but would soon fall back into their domesticated settings once the men returned home.

Also, the changing face of nationalism in Civil War publications further illustrates continuous struggles, even today, of how much support existed for the war effort. Fahs sees a transformation of this phenomenon into one of diversity. Heroic white and black soldiers, women, and children gave way in the postwar years to just white men and Southern white women. This signified the social and cultural realities of war. An incorporation of religious literature would have further explained the nationalistic attitudes of these people.

A glaring omission from this book is the contributions from individual soldiers. Because of their long and frequent stay in camps, these men yearned for literature to keep them occupied. Though Fahs does acknowledge a general feel for newspapers, more insight into particular soldiers' tastes would have explained why periodicals and magazines were a common audience on the war front. Also, but not surprisingly, the author does appear to have a gender bias because much of the literature given was written by women. Though a minor flaw, it would have been slightly better to incorporate more of men's contributions into the "imagined war." Moreover, another minor flaw is the author's ability to over-explain her topics. The introduction of the book was so well written that one could have summarized the book's contents from that section alone. Additionally, the chapters were presented with numerous examples-possibly due to the high volume of material collected-that sort of dragged the reader throughout the book. Finally, even with these minor flaws, Fahs creates the first real collaboration of Civil War literature that will add considerable knowledge to Civil War historians.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good beat, November 2, 2013
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It had a good beat and was easy to dance to.Good information on civil war popular literature, north & south.
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The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865 (Civil War America)
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