Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-5nwft Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-19T15:41:44.651Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

15 - The Civil War Language of Flowers

from PART II - 1840–1865, UNIONS AND DISUNIONS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2017

Eliza Richards
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Jennifer Putzi
Affiliation:
College of William and Mary, Virginia
Alexandra Socarides
Affiliation:
University of Missouri, Columbia
Get access

Summary

During the Civil War, the idea of the “home front” signified differently in Union and Confederate literature. While northerners frequently contrasted peaceful home settings with battlefield violence, there was often little meaning to the distinction in the south, where the war enveloped farmland, towns, and cities, and the distinction between soldiers and civilians was blurred, even erased. Historians have begun to explore “the merger of home front and battle front in the experience of military occupation” during the war, particularly in relation to southern women. If the home front for northern women poets signified a safe place at a remove from the fighting, in the southern states it was often the very site of violent conflict.

Critical studies tend to focus either on Union or Confederate literature, assuming that they function as discrete expressive systems. A comparative approach offers insight into the gendered aspects of poetic-political participation in the conflict, spanning the sections that unilateral perspectives cannot. This essay demonstrates that women poets regardless of section took up topics and tropes from the antebellum period and adapted them to a radically different wartime outlook. Registering the urgency of civic issues, women writers turned away from staging dramas of private expression toward a more direct public address. Though many of the poems discussed here carry patriotic sentiment, they are more centrally preoccupied with war's devastation: massive death tolls, environmental damage, broken lines of communication. Above all, they register the encroachment of violence on the very poetic traditions they are using to address war's circumstances. As a result, the revisions they undertake differ according to the writer's regional sympathies; rather than reflecting and enforcing a clear boundary between sections, however, the poems form a continuum influenced by identification with place, as well as proximity to battlefield violence: the closer “home” is to a violent epicenter, the less relevant extant traditions prove to be.

This essay explores how northern and southern women responded to the Civil War by reworking a shared literary inheritance in divergent ways: “the language of flowers.” A tradition spanning centuries, but taking the form recognized as “Victorian” in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, its possibilities particularly attracted popular American women writers in the 1840s and ’50s.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×