Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War

Overview

In The Unwritten War, Daniel Aaron examines the literary output of American writers—major and minor—who treated the Civil War in their works. He seeks to understand why this devastating and defining military conflict has failed to produce more literature of a notably high and lasting order, why there is still no "masterpiece" of Civil War fiction.

In his portraits and analyses of 19th- and some 20th-century writers, Aaron distinguishes between those who dealt with the war only ...

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Overview

In The Unwritten War, Daniel Aaron examines the literary output of American writers—major and minor—who treated the Civil War in their works. He seeks to understand why this devastating and defining military conflict has failed to produce more literature of a notably high and lasting order, why there is still no "masterpiece" of Civil War fiction.

In his portraits and analyses of 19th- and some 20th-century writers, Aaron distinguishes between those who dealt with the war only marginally—Henry Adams, Henry James, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain-and those few who sounded the war's tragic import—Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner. He explores the extent to which the war changed the direction of American literature and how deeply it entered the consciousness of American writers. Aaron also considers how writers, especially those from the South, discerned the war's moral and historical implications.

The Unwritten War was originally published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1973. The New Republic declared, [This book's] major contribution will no doubt be to American literary history. In this respect it resembles Edmund Wilson's Patriotic Gore and is certain to become an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to explore the letters, diaries, journals, essays, novels, short stories, poems-but apparently no plays-which constitute Civil War literature. The mass of material is presented in a systematic, luminous, and useful way.
 


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Editorial Reviews

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"[This] is clearly [Aaron's] best book. His effort . . . Is scrupulous and backed by a thorough and unassuming scholarship."
—New York Times
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Daniel Aaron is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at Harvard University and founding president of the Library of America series of classic writings by American authors. He has written many books on American history and literature, including Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives and American Notes.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Pt. 1 "They Break the Links of Union" 1
1 Writers and Politics 4
2 The "Wholesome Calamity" 14
Pt. 2 A Philosophical View of the Whole Affair 39
3 Hawthorne: Lonely Dissenter 41
4 Whitman: The "Parturition Years" 56
5 Melville: The Conflict of Convictions 75
Pt. 3 The "Malingerers" 91
6 Henry Adams 93
7 Henry James 106
8 William Dean Howells 121
9 Mark Twain 133
Pt. 4 Drawing-Room Warriors and Combatants 147
10 Gentlemen of Peace and War 149
11 John W. De Forest 164
12 Ambrose Bierce 181
13 Albion W. Tourgee 193
Pt. 5 The War at Second Hand 207
14 Stephen Crane and Harold Frederic 210
Pt. 6 The South: Onlookers and Participants 227
15 Writers in the Confederacy 229
16 The Unwritten Novel 244
17 Sidney Lanier 263
18 George Washington Cable 272
Pt. 7 Reconstructing the Southern Past 283
19 The Neo-Confederates 285
20 William Faulkner 310
Conclusion: "Such Was the War" 327
Supplement 1 The War Prefigured 343
Supplement 2 Lincoln and the Writers 349
Supplement 3 A Further Note on the "Collegians" 353
Supplement 4 Emily Dickinson's "Private Campaign" 355
Notes (with a Key to Abbreviations Frequently Cited) 359
Acknowledgments 387
Index 387
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