Studies in American Literature: The Longest War: Civil War Literature from 1862 to the Present--Writing Intensive

Section 01
John Evelev
Course Description
So, then, Solidity’s a crust—/The core of fire below; all may go well for many a year,/But who can think without a fear/ Of horrors that happen so?   --Herman Melville, "The Apparition" (1866)
      The American Civil War (1861-1865) was cataclysmic: by its end over 600,000 men were dead, large portions of the South were in ruins, and the nation was left to contemplate the reality that its earlier vision of itself as a unified and peaceful "Solidity" was an illusion.  Reflecting upon the war in its aftermath, many Americans joined Melville in asking "who can think without a fear/ Of horrors that happen so?"   Although much has changed in the succeeding years, our nation and its writers keep returning to the conflicts of the Civil War as we think about regional difference and racial inequality. This course will study the literary response to the war, including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and political speeches, tracing both the literature of the unfolding war and reflections on the immediate aftermath and into the present. Contemporary responses to the Civil War demonstrate the continued importance of the conflict and reaffirm William Faulkner's claim that "The past is never dead. It's not even past."    Possible authors to be studied include: Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott, S. Weir Mitchell, Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, Constance Fenimore Woolson,  William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Natasha Trethewey, among others.   This course is designated Writing Intensive, which means that in addition to a number of shorter essays, we will end the semester with a final assignment that takes earlier work from the term and adds research and revision to end with a final culminating essay.