Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From a "Republic of Suffering" to an Empire?

Mary L. Dudziak

In This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust powerfully explored the impact of death and dying on the United States. During the Civil War, she wrote, the “work of death” was the nation’s “most fundamental and enduring undertaking.” Proximity to the dead, dying and injured transformed the United States, creating “a veritable ‘republic of suffering’ in the words [of] Frederick Law Olmsted.” War deaths have moved to the sidelines of American life in the 21st century. If shared experience with death helped constitute American identity in the Civil War, how is American identity now, in part, constituted through its absence? I have a short reflection on this on the OUP Blog today.

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