In this groundbreaking work of cultural history, Alice Fahs explores a little-known and fascinating side of the Civil War--the outpouring of popular literature inspired by the conflict. From 1861 to 1865, authors and publishers in both the North and the South produced a remarkable variety of war-related compositions, including poems, songs, children's stories, romances, novels, histories, and even humorous pieces. Fahs mines these rich but long-neglected resources to recover the diversity of the war's political and social meanings.Instead of narrowly portraying the Civil War as a clash between two great, white armies, popular literature offered a wide range of representations of the conflict and helped shape new modes of imagining the relationships of diverse individuals to the nation. Works that explored the war's devastating impact on white women's lives, for example, proclaimed the importance of their experiences on the home front, while popular writings that celebrated black manhood and heroism in the wake of emancipation helped readers begin to envision new roles for blacks in American life.
Recovering a lost world of popular literature, The Imagined Civil War adds immeasurably to our understanding of American life and letters at a pivotal point in our history.
Popular literary history is not written by, nor is it historically characterized by, the "classics" that come down to us. More often than not, the classics of 19th century American writers (except Mark Twain) were not best-sellers in their time, indeed they were hardly read by the contemporaries of the authors. That is why getting an understanding of what the masses read at the time of the Civil War -- what they read in terms of books and more so in terms of magazines & weekly newspapers -- provides such a great window on how the "average" literate person, north or south, thought on an everyday basis. This book by Alice Fahs tries to do that.
The book has lots of interesting material about the time and popular thought, it will open your eyes. It is, however, a bit dense at times ... especially to someone like me who was neither an English nor a Comparative Literature major. I can read or listen to academic History material with little trouble, but I had trouble with this work. It sounded like a PhD dissertation at times, or a paper for an academic journal, and not like a breezy discussion of the subject matter.
So I give it 5 stars for the unique and revealing content, and just a couple of stars for its academic density. Which averages out at 3 stars. It is certainly not the worst audiobook I've listened to over 5+ years on Audible, but neither was it the best. If you were a lit major or feel you can wade through such material without too much trouble, I say get it.