Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War by Shirley Samuels

Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War

byShirley Samuels

Hardcover | March 12, 2004

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Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War investigates and explains the changing face of America during the Civil War. To conjure a face for the nation, author Shirley Samuels also explores the body of the nation imagined both physically and metaphorically, arguing that the Civil War marksa dramatic shift from identifying the American nation as feminine to identifying it as masculine. Expressions of such a change appear in the allegorical configurations of nineteenth-century American novels, poetry, cartoons, and political rhetoric. Because of the visibility of war's assaults on themale body, masculine vulnerability became such a dominant facet of national life that it practically obliterated the visibility of other vulnerable bodies. The simultaneous advent of photography and the Civil War in the nineteenth century may be as influential as the conjoined rise of the novel andthe middle class in the eighteenth century. Both advents herald a changed understanding of how a transformative media can promote new cultural and national identities. Bodies immobilized because of war's practices of wounding and death are also bodies made static for the camera's gaze. The look ofshock on the faces of soldiers photographed in order to display their wounds emphasizes the new technology of war literally embodied in the impact of new imploding bullets on vulnerable flesh. Such images mark both the context for and a counterpoint to the "look" of Walt Whitman as he bends oversoldiers in their hospital beds. They also provide a way to interpret the languishing male heroes of novels such as August Evans's Macaria (1864), a southern elegy for the sundering of the nation. This book crucially shows how visual iconography affects the shift in postbellum gendered andracialized identifications of the nation.

About The Author

Shirley Samuels is Professor of English at Cornell University.
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Details & Specs

Title:Facing America: Iconography and the Civil WarFormat:HardcoverDimensions:200 pages, 6.18 × 9.41 × 1.1 inPublished:March 12, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195128974

ISBN - 13:9780195128970

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"This provocative and sophisticated book articulates the unstable intersections among race, gender, and nationalism in nineteenth-century America. Ranging among a great many texts and genres, from photographs, caricatures, pictures, and statues to novels, stories, and poems, Samuels offerssurprising new perspectives on identity crossovers, violence in domestic fiction, photographs of Civil War corpses, and the strange career of Lincoln's body, as well as on many familiar and unfamiliar writers from Caroline Kirkland to Ambrose Bierce. Her meditation on what she calls 'substitutionpanic' shows how visual or verbal displacements paradoxically enhance anxieties about race and sexuality, and sometimes invite viewers or readers to become 'pornogothic voyeurs.' Even American coins, she points out, have us 'facing the dead.'"--David Leverenz, University of Florida