Chapter

Touched with Fire

David E. Shi

in Facing Facts

Published in print July 1996 | ISBN: 9780195106534
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854097 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.003.0004
Touched with Fire

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The Civil War was a pivotal event in American political and social history. However, it also served as the hinge in the nation's cultural development, a turning point after which intellectual life and artistic expression were perceptibly different. Underneath the Civil War's romantic veneer lurked grim realities. Gender roles especially felt the conflict's transforming impact. Most of America's promising young writers and artists did not participate in the Civil War. The war reinforced Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s developed skeptical materialism. Walt Whitman had urged “relentless war” to end secession, but he, too, changed his exuberant tone after witnessing the war's grim reaping. The war's “mortal reality” gave greater depth, poignancy, and clarity to Whitman's Drum-Taps. Over the years Romanticism formed around the Civil War, making it stirringly unreal. The soul-numbing war depicted in John Esten Cooke and John W. De Forest's writings, Winslow Homer's illustrations, and Alexander Gardner's photographs soon disappeared.

Keywords: Civil War; gender roles; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Walt Whitman; Drum-Taps; Romanticism; John Esten Cooke; John W. De Forest; Winslow Homer; Alexander Gardner

Chapter.  8492 words.  Illustrated.

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