Over the past thirty years, the way Americans experience death has been dramatically altered. The advent of medical technology capable of sustaining life without restoring health has changed where, when, and how we die. In this revelatory study, medical anthropologist Sharon R. Kaufman examines the powerful center of those changes: the hospital, where most Americans die today. She deftly links the experiences of patients and families, the work of hospital staff, and the ramifications of institutional bureaucracy to show the invisible power of the hospital system in shaping death and our individual experience of it. In doing so, Kaufman also speaks to the ways we understand what it means to be human and to be alive.
“An act of courage and a public service.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“This beautifully synthesized and disquieting account of how hospital patients die melds disciplined description with acute analysis, incorporating the voices of doctors, nurses, social workers, and patients in a provocative analysis of the modern American quest for a ‘good death.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Kaufman exposes the bureaucratic and ethical quandaries that hover over the modern deathbed.”—Psychology Today
“Kaufman’s analysis illuminates the complexity of the care of critically ill and dying patients [and] the ambiguity of slogans such as ‘death with dignity,’ ‘quality of life,’ and ‘stopping life support.’ . . . Thought-provoking reading for everyone contemplating the fate of us all.”—New EnglandJournal of Medicine
“In the first twenty-seven months of combat 175,000 Southern soldiers died. This number was more than the entire Confederate military force in the summer of 1861, and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost 65 percent of its men and 70 percent of its field officers in a single charge. A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”
Why did the Confederacy lose so many men? The authors contend that the Confederates bled themselves nearly to death in the first three years of the war by making costly attacks more often than the Federals. Offensive tactics, which had been used successfully by Americans in the Mexican War, were much less effective in the 1860s because an improved weapon – the rifle – had given increased strength to defenders. This book describes tactical theory in the 1850s and suggests how each related to Civil War tactics. It also considers the development of tactics in all three arms of the service during the Civil War.
In examining the Civil War the book separates Southern from Northern tactical practice and discusses Confederate military history in the context of Southern social history. Although the Southerners could have offset their numerical disadvantage by remaining on the defensive and forcing the Federals to attack, they failed to do so. The authors argue that the Southerners’ consistent favoring of offensive warfare was attributable, in large measure, to their Celtic heritage: they fought with the same courageous dash and reckless abandon that had characterized their Celtic forebears since ancient times. The Southerners of the Civil War generation were prisoners of their social and cultural history: they attacked courageously and were killed – on battlefields so totally defended by the Federals that “not even a chicken could get through.”
Create or Die
Stephen Lee Naish Amsterdam University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PN2287.H66N35 2016
Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) was one of most charismatic and protean figures to emerge from the American independent film movement of the 1960s and '70s, an incredibly compelling screen presence who helped give cult classics like Easy Rider and Blue Velvet their off-kilter appeal. But his artistic interests went far beyond acting, and this collection of essays is the first major work to take in Hopper as a creative artist in all his fields of endeavour, from acting and directing to photography, sculpture, and expressionist painting. Stephen Naish doesn't skimp on covering Hopper's best-known work, but he breaks new ground in putting it in context with his other creative enterprises, showing how one medium informs another, and how they offer a portrait of an artist who was restless, even flawed at times, but always aiming to live up to his motto: create or die.[-][-]Follow the podcasts by Steve Naish here
On the morning of February 6, 1999, Buenos Aires police officers shot and killed seventeen-year-old Víctor Manuel Vital, better known as Frente, while he was unarmed, hiding under a table, and trying to surrender. Widely known and respected throughout Buenos Aires's shantytowns for his success as a thief, commitment to a code of honor, and generosity to his community, Frente became a Robin Hood--style legend who, in death, was believed to have the power to make bullets swerve and save gang members from shrapnel. In Dance for Me When I Die—first published in Argentina in 2004 and appearing here in English for the first time—Cristian Alarcón tells the story and legacy of Frente's life and death in the context of the everyday experiences of love and survival, murder and addiction, and crime and courage of those living in the slums. Drawing on interviews with Frente's friends, family, and ex-girlfriends, as well as with local thieves and drug dealers, and having immersed himself in Frente's neighborhood for eighteen months, Alarcón captures the world of the urban poor in all of its complexity and humanity.
To be or not to be—who asks this question today, and how? What does it mean to issue, or respond to, an appeal for the right to die? In A Death of One’s Own, the first sustained literary study of the right to die, Jared Stark takes up these timely questions by testing predominant legal understandings of assisted suicide and euthanasia against literary reflections on modern death from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rigorously interdisciplinary and lucidly argued, Stark’s wide-ranging discussion sheds critical light on the disquieting bioethical and biopolitical dilemmas raised by contemporary forms of medical technology and legal agency.
More than a survey or work of advocacy, A Death of One’s Own examines the consequences and limits of the three reasons most often cited for supporting a person’s right to die: that it is justified as an expression of personal autonomy or self-ownership; that it constitutes an act of self-authorship, of “choosing a final chapter” in one’s life; and that it enables what has come to be called “death with dignity.” Probing the intersections of law and literature, Stark interweaves close discussion of major legal, political, and philosophical arguments with revealing readings of literary and testimonial texts by writers including Balzac, Melville, Benjamin, and Améry.
A thought-provoking work that will be of interest to those concerned with law and humanities, biomedical ethics, cultural history, and human rights, A Death of One’s Own opens new and suggestive paths for thinking about the history of modern death as well as the unsettled future of the right to die.
Laughing Shall I Die explores the Viking fascination with scenes of heroic death. The literature of the Vikings is dominated by famous last stands, famous last words, death songs, and defiant gestures, all presented with grim humor. Much of this mindset is markedly alien to modern sentiment, and academics have accordingly shunned it. And yet, it is this same worldview that has always powered the popular public image of the Vikings—with their berserkers, valkyries, and cults of Valhalla and Ragnarok—and has also been surprisingly corroborated by archaeological discoveries such as the Ridgeway massacre site in Dorset.
Was it this mindset that powered the sudden eruption of the Vikings onto the European scene? Was it a belief in heroic death that made them so lastingly successful against so many bellicose opponents? Weighing the evidence of sagas and poems against the accounts of the Vikings’ victims, Tom Shippey considers these questions as he plumbs the complexities of Viking psychology. Along the way, he recounts many of the great bravura scenes of Old Norse literature, including the Fall of the House of the Skjoldungs, the clash between the two great longships Ironbeard and Long Serpent, and the death of Thormod the skald. One of the most exciting books on Vikings for a generation, Laughing Shall I Die presents Vikings for what they were: not peaceful explorers and traders, but warriors, marauders, and storytellers.
A mere handful of battlefields have come to epitomize the anguish and pain of America's Civil War: Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chancellorsville, Chickamauga. Yet another name belongs on that infamous list: Stones River, the setting for Peter Cozzens's No Better Place to Die.
It was here that both the Union and Confederate armies lost over one-quarter of their forces in battle casualties. The Confederacy's defeat at Stones River unleashed a wave of dissension that crippled the army's high command and ultimately closed Tennessee to the South for two years. The loss deterred the British and French from coming to the aid of the South in the Civil War, with tragic effects for the Southern cause.
In the 126 years since the guns fell silent at Stones River, few books have examined the bloody clash and its impact on the war's subsequent outcome. No Better Place to Die recounts the events and strategies that brought the two armies to the banks of this central Tennessee river on December 31, 1862. Cozzens re-creates the battle itself, following the movements and performance of individual regiments. A series of maps clarifies the combat activity.
Cozzens frequently lets the men who fought the battle speak for themselves, through letters, diaries, memoirs, and battlefield communications. Here we learn about such critical moments as General Philip Sheridan's gallant defense along the Wilkinson Pike, one of the war's most tenacious stands against overwhelming odds, and the bravery in battle exemplified by Brekenridge's attack on the Union left, a doomed assault with the poignancy of Pickett's charge.
Over twenty thousand Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured in the bloody New Year's battle of Stone's River. The impact of their struggle extended far beyond the thousands of shattered human lives, ultimately imperiling the fortunes of the Confederacy. No Better Place to Die pays tribute to the heroes, the scoundrels, the mistakes, the bravery, and the grief at Stone's River.
The history of slavery in early America is a history of suicide. On ships crossing the Atlantic, enslaved men and women refused to eat or leaped into the ocean. They strangled or hanged themselves. They tore open their own throats. In America, they jumped into rivers or out of windows, or even ran into burning buildings. Faced with the reality of enslavement, countless Africans chose death instead.
In The Power to Die, Terri L. Snyder excavates the history of slave suicide, returning it to its central place in early American history. How did people—traders, plantation owners, and, most importantly, enslaved men and women themselves—view and understand these deaths, and how did they affect understandings of the institution of slavery then and now? Snyder draws on ships’ logs, surgeons' journals, judicial and legislative records, newspaper accounts, abolitionist propaganda and slave narratives, and many other sources to build a grim picture of slavery’s toll and detail the ways in which suicide exposed the contradictions of slavery, serving as a powerful indictment that resonated throughout the Anglo-Atlantic world and continues to speak to historians today.
There are few issues more divisive than what has become known as “the right to die.” One camp upholds “death with dignity,” regarding the terminally ill as autonomous beings capable of forming their own judgment on the timing and process of dying. The other camp advocates “sanctity of life,” regarding life as intrinsically valuable, and that should be sustained as long as possible. Is there a right answer?
Raphael Cohen-Almagor takes a balanced approach in analyzing this emotionally charged debate, viewing the dispute from public policy and international perspectives. He offers an interdisciplinary, compelling study in medicine, law, religion, and ethics. It is a comprehensive look at the troubling question of whether physician-assisted suicide should be allowed. Cohen-Almagor delineates a distinction between active and passive euthanasia and discusses legal measures that have been invoked in the United States and abroad. He outlines reasons non-blood relatives should be given a role in deciding a patient’s last wishes. As he examines euthanasia policies in the Netherlands and the 1994 Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the author suggests amendments and finally makes a circumscribed plea for voluntary physician-assisted suicide.
Challenging the widely held belief that Nicaragua has been ethnically homogeneous since the nineteenth century, To Die in This Way reveals the continued existence and importance of an officially “forgotten” indigenous culture. Jeffrey L. Gould argues that mestizaje—a cultural homogeneity that has been hailed as a cornerstone of Nicaraguan national identity—involved a decades-long process of myth building.
Through interviews with indigenous peoples and records of the elite discourse that suppressed the expression of cultural differences and rationalized the destruction of Indian communities, Gould tells a story of cultural loss. Land expropriation and coerced labor led to cultural alienation that shamed the indigenous population into shedding their language, religion, and dress. Beginning with the 1870s, Gould historicizes the forces that prompted a collective movement away from a strong identification with indigenous cultural heritage to an “acceptance” of a national mixed-race identity.
By recovering a significant part of Nicaraguan history that has been excised from the national memory, To Die in This Way critiques the enterprise of third world nation-building and thus marks an important step in the study of Latin American culture and history that will also interest anthropologists and students of social and cultural historians.
Even before the first cannonballs were fired at Fort Sumter, American writers were trying to make creative sense of the War Between the States. These thirty-one stories were culled from hundreds that circulated in popular magazines between 1861 and the celebration of the American centennial in 1876. Arranged to echo the sequence of the unfolding drama of the war and Reconstruction, together these short stories constitute an “inadvertent novel,” a collective narrative about a domestic crisis that was still ongoing as the stories were being written and published. The authors, who include Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, depict the horrors of the battlefield, the suffering in prison camps and field hospitals, and the privations of the home front. In these pages, bushwhackers carry the war to out-of-the-way homesteads, spies work households from the inside, journeying paymasters rely on the kindness of border women, and soldiers turn out to be girls. The stories are populated with nurses, officers, speculators, preachers, slaves, and black troops, and they take place in cities, along the frontier, and on battlefields from Shiloh to Gettysburg. The book opens with a prewar vigilante attack on the Underground Railroad and a Kansas parson in Henry King’s “The Cabin at Pharoah’s Ford” and concludes with an ex-slave recalling the loss of her remaining son in Twain’s “A True Story.” In between are stories written by both women and men that were published in magazines from the South and West as well as the culturally dominant Northeast. Wartime wood engravings highlight the text. Kathleen Diffley’s introduction provides literary and historical background, and her commentary introduces readers to magazine authors as well as the deepening disruptions of a country at war. Just as they did for nineteenth-century readers, these stories will bring the war home to contemporary readers, giving shape to a crisis that rocked the nation then and continues to haunt it now.
According to the 1860 census, nearly 350,000 native northerners resided in a southern state by the time of the Civil War. Although northern in birth and upbringing, many of these men and women identified with their adopted section once they moved south. In this innovative study, David Ross Zimring examines what motivated these Americans to change sections, support (or not) the Confederate cause, and, in many cases, rise to considerable influence in their new homeland. By analyzing the lives of northern emigrants in the South, Zimring deepens our understanding of the nature of sectional identity as well as the strength of Confederate nationalism.
Focusing on a representative sample of emigrants, Zimring identifies two subgroups: “adoptive southerners,” individuals born and raised in a state above the Mason-Dixon line but who but did not necessarily join the Confederacy after they moved south, and “Northern Confederates,” emigrants who sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. After analyzing statistical data on states of origin, age, education, decade of migration, and, most importantly, the reasons why these individuals embarked for the South in the first place, Zimring goes on to explore the prewar lives of adoptive southerners, the adaptations they made with regard to slavery, and the factors that influenced their allegiances during the secession crisis. He also analyzes their contributions to the Confederate military and home front, the emergence of their Confederate identities and nationalism, their experiences as prisoners of war in the North, and the reactions they elicited from native southerners.
In tracing these journeys from native northerner to Confederate veteran, this book reveals not only the complex transformations of adoptive southerners but also the flexibility of sectional and national identity before the war and the loss of that flexibility in its aftermath. To Live and Die in Dixie is a thought-provoking work that provides a novel perspective on the revolutionary changes the Civil War unleashed on American society.
David Ross Zimring is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Montgomery College. He has published in West Virginia History and the Journal of Southern History.
After Stalin died a torrent of Western novels, films, and paintings invaded Soviet streets and homes. Soviet citizens invested these imports with political and personal significance, transforming them into intimate possessions. Eleonory Gilburd reveals how Western culture defined the last three decades of the Soviet Union, its death, and afterlife.
Many soldiers who served in the American Civil War found solace in their faith during the most trying times of the war. But few soldiers took such a providential view of life and the Civil War as Charles Henry Howard. Born in a small town in Maine, Howard came from a family with a distinguished history of soldiering: his grandfather was a Revolutionary War veteran and his brother, the older and more well-known Oliver Otis Howard, attended West Point and rose to command an army in the Civil War. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Charles Henry Howard graduated from Bowdoin College in 1859. Following graduation, Charles visited his older brother at West Point during the tumultuous election of 1860. While at West Point, Howard saw the tensions between Northern and Southern cadets escalate as he weighed his options for a military or theological career. The choice was made for him on April 12, 1861, with the firing on Fort Sumter.
Responding to his brother’s plea for the sons of Maine to join the Union cause, Charles found himself a noncommissioned officer fighting in the disastrous Battle of First Bull Run. All told, Howard fought in several major battles of the Eastern Theater, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, and went on to participate in various military actions in the Western Theater including Sherman’s bloody Atlanta Campaign. He was wounded twice, first at the Battle of Fair Oaks and again at Fredericksburg. Yet, despite facing the worst horrors of war, Howard rarely wavered in his faith and rose steadily in rank throughout the conflict. By war’s end, he was a brevet brigadier general in command of the 128th U.S. Colored Troop Regiment.
Howard’s letters cover a wide-ranging period, from 1852 to 1908. His concern for his family is typical of a Civil War soldier, but his exceptionally firm reliance on divine providence is what makes these letters an extraordinary window into the mind of a Civil War officer. Howard’s grounded faith was often tested by the viciousness of war, and as a result his letters are rife with stirring confessions and his emotional grappling with the harsh realities he faced. Howard’s letters expose the greater theological and metaphysical dilemmas of the war faced by so many on both sides.
David K. Thomson is completing his PhD at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on the role of religion in the Civil War, in particular providential discourse and its impact on wartime efforts in finance, diplomacy, emancipation, politics, the home front, and the battlefield.
Gene Jacobsen was a nineteen-year-old Idaho ranch kid when he decided to join the Army Air Corps in September 1940. By December 1941 he was supply sergeant for the Twentieth Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field in the Philippines. Five months later he was a captive of the Imperial Japanese Army, enduring the Bataan death march and subsequent horrors in the Philippines and Japan. Of the 207 officers and men who made up Jacobsen’s squadron at the beginning of the war, sixty-five survived to return to the United States. We Refused to Die recounts Jacobsen’s struggle, against all odds, to remain one of those sixty-five men.
In engaging, direct prose, Jacobsen’s three-and-a-half year experience as a prisoner of war takes the reader on a brutal and harrowing march through hatred and forgiveness, fortitude and freedom. We Refused to Die is an honest memoir that shines light on one of history’s darkest moments.
Scholars have long considered the elegiac characteristics of Thoreau's work. Yet few have explored how his personal views on death and dying influenced his philosophies and writings. In beautiful prose, Audrey Raden places Thoreau's views of death and dying at the center of his work, contending that it is crucial to consider the specific historical and regional contexts in which he lived -- nineteenth-century New England -- to fully appreciate his perspectives. To understand death and dying, Thoreau drew on Christian and Eastern traditions, antebellum Northern culture, Transcendentalism, and his personal relationship with nature. He then suffused his writings with these understandings, through what Raden identifies as three key approaches -- the sentimental, the heroic, and the mystical.
When I Came to Die suggests that throughout his writings, Thoreau communicated that knowing how to die properly is an art and a lifelong study, a perspective that informed his ideas about politics, nature, and individualism. With this insight, Raden opens a dialogue that will engage both Thoreauvians and those interested in American literature and thought.