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Southern Women Novelists and the Civil War: Trauma and Collective Memory in the American Literary Tradition since 1861
by Sharon Talley
University of Tennessee Press, 2014
eISBN: 978-1-62190-084-9 | Cloth: 978-1-62190-013-9
Library of Congress Classification PS374.C53T35 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.009358737

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC | REQUEST ACCESSIBLE FILE
ABOUT THIS BOOK
During and after the Civil War, southern women played a critical role in shaping the South’s
evolving collective memory by penning journals and diaries, historical accounts, memoirs,
and literary interpretations of the war. While a few of these writings—most notably Mary
Chesnut’s diaries and Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind—have been studied in
depth by numerous scholars, until now there has been no comprehensive examination of
Civil War novels by southern women. In this welcome study, Sharon Talley explores works
by fifteen such writers, illuminating the role that southern women played in fashioning
cultural identity in the region.

Beginning with Augusta Jane Evans’s Macaria and Sallie Rochester Ford’s Raids and
Romance of Morgan and His Men
, which were published as the war still raged, Talley offers
a chronological consideration of the novels with informative introductions for each time
period. She examines Reconstruction works by Marion Harland, Mary Ann Cruse, and
Rebecca Harding Davis, novels of the “Redeemed” South and the turn of the century by
Mary Noailles Murfree, Ellen Glasgow, and Mary Johnston, and narratives by Evelyn Scott,
Margaret Mitchell, and Caroline Gordon from the Modern period that spanned the two
World Wars. Analysis of Margaret Walker’s Jubilee (1966), the first critically acclaimed Civil
War novel by an African American woman of the South, as well as other post–World War
II works by Kaye Gibbons, Josephine Humphreys, and Alice Randall, offers a fitting conclusion
to Talley’s study by addressing the inaccuracies in the romantic myth of the Old South
that Gone with the Wind most famously engraved on the nation’s consciousness.

Informed by feminist, poststructural, and cultural studies theory, Talley’s close readings
of these various novels ultimately refute the notion of a monolithic interpretation of
the Civil War, presenting instead unique and diverse approaches to balancing “fact” and
“fiction” in the long period of artistic production concerning this singular traumatic event
in American history.

Sharon Talley, professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, is the author
of Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death and Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her
articles have appeared in American Imago, Journal of Men’s Studies, and Nineteenth-Century
Prose.
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