<i>Walls</i> Epic in Miniature

Julia A. Stern

in Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780226773285
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226773315 | DOI:
Walls Epic in Miniature

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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Mary Chesnut's 1880s narrative offers a kaleidoscopic vision of the Southern home front and the political command center of America's most murderous conflict. Encyclopedic in scope and size, epics are built from repertoires of “type scenes,” thematic staples revealing the breadth and depth of their creators' imaginative purchase on a represented universe: the woman surveying her city at war, the hero voyaging to the underworld, and the revelation of the protagonist's disguised identity are three keystones of the literary genre that inspired Mary Chesnut's transformation of her diary. Chesnut deploys thematic building blocks used in the epic tradition since scribes first recorded Homer's songs hundreds of years after his moment, and her use and adaptation of type scenes offer insight into her vision of the martial world and its relation to her feelings about loss and death on the home front.

Keywords: Mary Chesnut; epics; type scenes; martial world; loss and death; theme

Chapter.  7665 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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