FYS 115 Reading the Civil War
Michael Gorra, T Th 9:00 AM-10:20 AM
In William Faulkner’s Flags in the Dust the son of a long-dead Confederate cavalry officer listens to one of his father’s old troopers describe a memorable raid, and at the end asks “What the devil were you folks fighting about, anyhow?” Comes the answer: Damned if I know. This course interrogates the spectacularly different replies that question has drawn over the years. We will examine the rhetoric with which the Civil War has been defined in both the documents of the time and in later works of memory. We will read fiction, poetry, speeches, diaries, letters, memoirs, and war-reporting; look at period photographs, monuments, and such films as Glory. Works by Lincoln, Bierce, Chesnutt, Douglass, Crane, Shaara, and others; readings in such historians as Foote, Foner, and Faust. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.