Blood & Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937

Blood & Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937

Blood & Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937

Blood & Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937

Synopsis

"In fiction, diaries, biographies, personal papers, educational texts, historical writings, and through the work of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, southern white women sought to tell and preserve what they considered to be the truth about the war. In doing so, they shaped the myth of the Lost Cause and tried to restore dignity and valor to the public image of the South. Women worked both independently and in concert, and Gardner reveals a strong community of Confederate women who were conscious of their shared effort to define a new and compelling vision of the southern war experience." "Gardner's reading of a wide range of published and unpublished texts recovers a multifaceted vision of the South. For example, during the war, while its outcome was not yet a foregone conclusion, women's writings sometimes reflected loyalty and optimism; at other times, they revealed doubts and a wavering resolve. According to Gardner, it was only in the aftermath of defeat that a more unified vision of the southern cause emerged. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, white women - who remained deeply loyal to their southern roots - were raising fundamental questions about the meaning of southern womanhood in the modern era." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

“He was the cavalry general Jeb Stuart…. I danced
a valse with him in Baltimore in ’58,” and her voice
was proud and still as banners in the dust.

—WILLIAM FAULKNER, Flags in the Dust

The speaker was Virginia Du Pre, the eighty-year-old woman who fondly remembers General Jeb Stuart in William Faulkner’s 1927 novel, Flags in the Dust. Her interest in the story of the dashing Confederate officer is deeply personal, for it tells not only of Stuart’s bravery in the face of fifteen thousand Yankees but also of her brother Bayard Sartoris’s “brief career” as a cavalryman in the Confederate Army. Aunt Jenny had first told her story in 1869, and she had subsequently told it many more times—“on occasions usually inopportune.” Indeed, as Aunt Jenny grew older, “the tale itself grew richer and richer, taking on a mellow splendor like wine; until what had been a hair-brained prank of two heedless and reckless boys wild with their open youth, was become a gallant and finely tragical focal point to which the history of the race had been raised from out the old miasmic swamps of spiritual sloth by two angels valiantly and glamorously fallen and strayed, altering the course of human events and purging the souls of men.” Faulkner correctly understood the importance of stories to southern . . .

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