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14 - Literature and the Material Cultures of Confederate Remembrance

from Part II - Worlds Made and Remade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Kathleen Diffley
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
Coleman Hutchison
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

This chapter examines the literary afterlives of white Confederates' household possessions, especially those damaged during military invasion, or degraded by the impoverishment experienced by elite white southerners in the Civil War’s aftermath. It argues that, alongside emancipation's arrival, the military incursion into southern plantations and wealthy households altered the premises of white possession beyond recall. The damaged objects left behind became more than just traces of enemy invasion to the privileged slaveholding women left to pick up the pieces. As these women revealed in their private journals, their own belongings represented a threat to the forms of selfhood and racial pedigree that had defined their antebellum lives. In exploring how ex-Confederate women, writing during Reconstruction, used fiction to reorganize and display their sullied possessions, this chapter outlines a material history integral to the myth of Confederate exceptionalism—a myth more recognizably reified by monuments to the Lost Cause.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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