Making Sense of Battle: Journalism and Photography of the Civil War

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Eliza Richards
Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

During the Civil War, Americans, North and South, were surrounded by death. Battle claimed over 600,000 lives. A similar casualty rate in today’s America would result in about 6 million deaths. Just as we would struggle to make sense of such massive tragedy, our countrymen did 150 years ago. And then, as now, new communications technologies brought events into people’s lives with unprecedented speed and immediacy.

How did innovations in journalism and photography heighten the impact of the War’s carnage on the home fronts? How did news and images from the battlefield challenge nineteenth-century beliefs about death and burial? And how did they challenge people to find meaning in the War?

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Assigned Readings

  1. “In Time of War,” Harper’s Weekly, 1863
  2. Specimen Days, Walt Whitman, 1892 (excerpt)
  3. “Bread and the Newspaper,” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Atlantic Monthly, 1861 (excerpt)
  4. “Cavalry Crossing a Ford,” Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1891
  5. “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown.” Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1891
  6. “Brady's Photographs,” (review) The New York Times, 1862
  7. “Doings of the Sunbeam,” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Atlantic Monthly, 1863
  8. “Story of Antietam,” George Smalley, New York Tribune, 1862
  9. “After All,” (poem) William Winter, 1862
  10. “After the Battle of Antietam,” Harper’s Weekly, 1863
  11. The Letters of Emily Dickinson, 1862-64 (excerpts)
  12. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, selected Civil War poems

Seminar Recording