Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation argues that readings of the Civil War novels published in America since 1955 should be informed by a consciousness of the social forces at work in each author’s time. Part One consists of a study of the popular Civil War novel, 1955’s Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor; part two, 1974’s The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Chapters One through Three explain that Kantor was especially fitted for the ideological work going on in Andersonville, then outlines the way that novel tried to contribute to the transition between World War II and the Cold War. The book attempted to aid in the process by which Americans were persuaded to shoulder the financial and military burden for the protection of West Germany and West Berlin. Chapters Three and Four examine The Killer Angels, arguing that Shaara’s decision to feature Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Twentieth Maine’s defense of Little Round Top is a working-through of the longing for a different, more creative style of leadership after the Vietnam War came to be perceived widely as a disaster. On the Confederate side, the conflict between Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet parallels the conflict over the war in Vietnam. Part Three examines about a dozen Civil War novels published in America in the past twenty-five years. In Chapter Five, I argue that these novels partake in the postmodern tendency toward the creation of characters who experience a confusion of perception and identity in the face of the unending cascade of information coming at them, and respond in ways typical of postmodern characters. Chapter Six offers three models for the way contemporary novels explore the Civil War’s meaning: the multiplicity novel, the 1990s anti-war model, and the counter-narrative model, which are all described using examples of each kind of book.
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Smithpeters, Jeffrey Neal, ""To the latest generation": Cold War and Post Cold War U.S. Civil War novels in their social contexts" (2005). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 2933.