Regimental memory : veterans' narratives and Civil War fiction

Warren, Craig Andrew, Department of English, University of Virginia
Cushman, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Gallagher, Gary, Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the complex relationship between fictions of the American Civil War and the vast body of postwar memoirs, reminiscences, regimental histories, and other narratives authored by Union and Confederate veterans. Specifically, I argue that participation functions as the thematic linchpin connecting soldiers' remembrances to Civil War fiction. Veterans taught later generations to represent the conflict in terms of individual experience. In turn, novelists such as Stephen Crane, Margaret Mitchell, and William Faulkner helped to define an important but underappreciated genre of historical fiction: one that asks Americans to participate vicariously in the pivotal moment within the cultural development of the United States. Yet authors of Civil War fiction have not simply recreated what they encountered in the pages of military memoirs. Rather, writers such as Caroline Gordon and Michael Shaara have at once embraced and challenged the contents of veterans' narratives when exploring a constellation of key national issues -- among them race, region, gender, violence, and democracy. By examining the interaction between fictional representations of the war and the words of former soldiers, we can better understand how national memory and identity develop in relation to written records of the nation's past. Moreover, we can thereby investigate the fascinating intersections of memory, historical narratives, and imaginative writing within the American literary tradition.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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