"This Mighty Convulsion": Whitman and Melville Write the Civil War


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This is the first book exclusively devoted to the Civil War writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, arguably the most important poets of the war. The essays brought together in this volume add significantly to recent critical appreciation of the skill and sophistication of these poets; growing recognition of the complexity of their views of the war; and heightened appreciation for the anxieties they harbored about its aftermath. Both in the ways they come together and seem mutually influenced, and in the ways they disagree, Whitman and Melville grapple with the casualties, complications, and anxieties of the war while highlighting its irresolution. This collection makes clear that rather than simply and straightforwardly memorializing the events of the war, the poetry of Whitman and Melville weighs carefully all sorts of vexing questions and considerations, even as it engages a cultural politics that is never pat.

Contributors: Kyle Barton, Peter Bellis, Adam Bradford, Jonathan A. Cook, Ian Faith, Ed Folsom, Timothy Marr, Cody Marrs, Christopher Ohge, Vanessa Steinroetter, Sarah L. Thwaites, Brian Yothers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609386634
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 11/15/2019
Series: Iowa Whitman Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Christopher Sten is professor of English and American literature at George Washington University. He is the author of The Weaver-God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics of the Novel. He lives in Washington, DC.

Tyler Hoffman is professor of English at Rutgers University-Camden. He is the author of Robert Frost and the Politics of Poetry. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

"This Mighty Convulsion": Walt Whitman and Herman Melville Write the Civil War Christopher Sten Tyler Hoffman 1

The Interplay or Drum-Taps and Battle-Pieces

1 "The Foulest Crime": Whitman, Melville, and the Cultural Life of a Phrase Ed Folsom 23

2 Materiality in the Civil War Poetry of Melville and Whitman Vanessa Steinroetter 33

3 Battle-Pieces, Drum-Taps, and the Aesthetic of Aftermath in Civil War Photography Sarah L. Thwaites 50

4 Reconciliation as Sequel and Supplement: Drum-Taps and Battle-Pieces Peter J. Bellis 69

Reimagining Drum-Taps

5 Whitman's Disarming Poetics: Recuperating the Language of the Body in Drum-Taps Kyle Barton 85

6 Embodying the Book: Mourning for the Masses in Drum-Taps Adam Bradford 99

7 Drum-Taps and the Chaos of War Cody Marrs 119

Reimagining Battle-Pieces

8 Melville and the Lord of Hosts: Holy War and Divine Warrior Rhetoric in Battle-Pieces Jonathan A. Cook 135

9 "Nearer to Us in Nature": The South and Melville's Literary Lost Cause Timothy Marr 153

10 Melville's Historical Imagination in "The House-top" Christopher Ohge 172

11 Melville's Reconstructions: The Moorish Maid in "Lee in the Capitol" Brian Yothers 191

Drum-Taps AND Battle-Pieces Brought Together

12 Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and the American Civil War Poetry Anthology Ian Faith 203

Notes 227

Bibliography 263

Contributors 277

Index 279

What People are Saying About This

Randall Fuller

“A critical examination of the two most significant Civil War poets that brings together some of the most talented and insightful Melville and Whitman scholars. ‘This Mighty Convulsion’ is timely and important.”—Randall Fuller, author, From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature

Wyn Kelley

“Not only do these essays plumb deeply the aesthetic, political, historical, and critical dimensions of Whitman’s Drum-Taps and Melville’s Battle-Pieces, viewed both together and apart, but also they reveal scars the war left on the poets themselves—poignant residue of ‘this mighty convulsion’—that make their work timely and new.”—Wyn Kelley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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