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Dynamics of Memories Research Seminar

Date: 18 March 2010 Time: 5pm

Venue: Institute of Advanced Studies, Meeting Room 1

Susan-Mary Grant (Newcastle)

The Limits of Reconstruction: Maiming, Madness and Memorialisation in the post-Civil War South

The death, by his own hand, of Edmund Ruffin, slaveholder, southern agricultural reformer and, ultimately, secessionist, is well known. In taking his own life on learning of the Confederacy's defeat Ruffin epitomises Southern defiance in a gesture often interpreted as the ultimate rejection of Yankee rule. Yet while Ruffin's suicide provides the historian with a tidy if tragic coda to the conclusion of America's Civil War, it also obscures the broader impact of the war on the minds of white southerners. The walking wounded of the Confederacy are accorded second-place in a literature that privileges the memory of the hallowed dead in the post-war South but sidelines the war's damaged survivors. The evidence provided by personal letters, diaries and medical records suggests that the immediate and longer-term impact of the Civil War for many white southerners was neither fully expressed through nor assuaged by the civil religion of the Lost Cause. Further, the historiographical reluctance to confront the full extent of the war's physical and mental impact compromises our understanding of how the white South came to terms with defeat and, crucially, how it integrated the Confederate experience with the national story of the Civil War.

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Who can attend: Anyone

 

Further information

Associated staff: Mercedes Camino, Patrick Hagopian, Nayanika Mookherjee (Sociology), John Strachan, David Sugarman (Law), Ruth Wodak (Linguistics and English Language)

Organising departments and research centres: Dynamics of Memories, History

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