Title page for ETD etd-04142005-121818

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Smithpeters, Jeffrey Neal
Author's Email Address jsmithpeters@cox.net
URN etd-04142005-121818
Title "To the Latest Generation": Cold War and Post Cold War U.S. Civil War Novels in Their Social Contexts
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rick Moreland Committee Chair
Ed White Committee Member
Gaines M. Foster Committee Member
John Wharton Lowe Committee Member
Anne Osborne Cunningham Dean's Representative
  • Howard Bahr
  • Cold Mountain
  • Charles Frazier
  • Donald McCaig
  • MacKinlay Kantor
  • Andersonville
  • Michael Shaara
  • The Killer Angels
  • postmodernism
  • Vietnam War
  • John F. Kennedy
  • holocaust
  • new historicism
  • Ishmael Reed
  • Gore Vidal
  • David Madden
  • Alice Randall
  • The Black Flower
  • Allan Gurganus
Date of Defense 2005-03-15
Availability unrestricted
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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