“My intention for the final project is to analyze how literature of this era conceptualizes our understanding of the war and reconstruction. I want to be able to compare at least 4 different types of novels, journals, etc. from varying perspectives and analyze how literature can manipulate our sympathies and perception of actual history and the struggle to freedom.”
With this in mind, during my hunt for research and evidence to support my work, I came across many things that have altered my outlook on how I want to construct my final project. My focus shall be on literature for sure, but literature on the Women in the South and how the war impacted their changing roles in society. I still want to be able to analyze the way in which literature itself can be a manipulator that helps us sympathize with the justifications that these people in this society had for slavery and the way in which the recollection of the “good old days” has continued to influence the romanticizing of slavery and the South.
Discoveries within the Research Process:
- The first thing that I took note of was that you cannot speak about the changing roles of women within the Confederate South without analyzing the culture of the South and how it came to be. The South was immersed in this society of formality and hindering patriarchy, and to be able to recognize the significant and drastic change within the people who were themselves so loyal to the Confederacy, one must analyze their upbringings and the formation of their society.
- Another thing that I kept coming across when researching issues concerning the literature and representation of the South is this interpretation of the Civil War and Confederacy being a “Lost Cause.” Within this description of the society of the South there beget the “Six Tenants” which illustrated a list of justification as to a sort of myth of the “good old days”. “Developed by white Southerners, many of them former Confederate generals, in a postwar climate of economic, racial, and social uncertainty, the Lost Cause created and romanticized the “Old South” and the Confederate war effort, often distorting history in the process.” (Encyclopedia Virginia)
- Most important discovery which aided my research tremendously was the plethora of diaries and written track records of both women and men, white and black, kept both during the war and during reconstruction. Although this is an obvious discovery, the correlation between literature and the way in which civilians expressed the array of their emotions and experiences were vastly drawn from stories and archives such as diaries that helped configure novels that romanticized the South and created this bubble of mystery and tragic desperation projected in novels such as Gone With the Wind.
- The Atlantic: Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War (Secondary Source).
This article was very resourceful for the base of my research composition because it gave me a very analytical and critical perspective on how, although the novels and the fables produced from the wrecking of an empire can be awe aspiring, they can also be very hindering and misinforming, which causes much problems and hindrance in progress for the future.
- Fiction as Reconstruction of History: Narratives of the Civil War in American Literature (Secondary Source)
This is an article that analyzes the many different and popular authors who write about the South and the Civil War era and who have a major impact on our perception and access to learning about these eras. It breaks down the roles of how each thing in society influences the image of the era, whether it be positive or negative, and how although people understand it to be a terrible and harsh era with many inequalities and immoral judgements, there is still this fuzzy yearning for false easy living.
- The Daily Intellgencier- Confederate newspapers (Primary Source)
The title in itself should be an indicator as to why this is such an important piece to my research and overall guidance into furthering my own thesis. These are actual newspapers of the Confederates expanding from before the war to after the war and it allows me a visual on how they were depicting all that was going on.
- A Confederate Girls Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson (Primary Source)
This is one of the best pieces in my research because it is first hand recounts of how it was being a woman before and after the war and the dawning of how much you were denied, yet the loyalty you have for your “lost cause” that demands you to stay a meek woman so as to placate men. It exhibits the different lifestyle changes that came about during the destruction of an empire.
- Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (secondary source)
This is an amazing book that draws evidence and literature from diaries, letters, and memoirs of hundreds of elite southern white women during the era who came to realize the oppressed patriarchal society they were living in, and whom acknowledged the hierarchy that their world revolved around. “Elite women’s struggles to survive in the war-torn South forced them into different roles (of teacher, nurse, clerk, spy, and soldier), new habits (of reading, writing, and dress), and changed attitudes (toward religion, courtship, and marriage). They invented a sense of self, according to Faust, based on “individual right and identity, of self-interest, that was strikingly modern” (p. 242). When, in desperation, they began to insist that their men give up the war and come home, their demands were based on their perception that they, too, had “needs, interests, and even rights, not just duties and obligations” (p. 235).”
- Confederate Reckoning Power and Politics in the Civil War South by Stephanie McCurry (Secondary Source)
This book brings forth the politics of the undoing of the confederacy and examines not only things on the governmental sides, but also on the plantations and in the homes of the southerners who vehemently believed that they were right and just people favored by God.
- The Lost Cause Contributed by Caroline E. Janney (Secondary Source)
This is a website wherein I found the list of the “Six Tenants” that outlined as to why the confederacy was such an amazing cause and how the literature that is written in favor of the good old days should be appraised because the “heroes of the Confederacy” were honorable men.” This book contributed a lot because it depicted the right amount of sardonic criticism of what people still believe and how easy it can be to twist the truth into a beautifully constricted lie to attract sympathizers.
- Gone with the Wind by Margret Mitchell (Secondary Source)
My whole research is revlolved on this very impactful piece of literature that has dominated the understanding of the south in popular culture for quite a long time. This very piece addresses the issues of feminism and coming of age during an era where women were to be meek and stupid for the pleasure of men. It shows issues of the horrible ways in which literature can make such romantic and naïve notions of how things actually were like during an era where war was needed to end the mass enslavement of other humans.