Book Reviews -- Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861-1876 by Kathleen Diffley

Article excerpt

Diffley, Kathleen. Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861-1876. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1992. 236 pp. $30.

One of the more interesting, yet underreported, ways in which journalism has contributed to our national life has been its role in both shaping and reflecting the changing historical self-definitions which illuminate our sense of ourselves-exemplifying, in effect, what it means to be American. One of the more volatile and fascinating I periods in this regard was the tumultuous i decade and a half from the start of the U.S. Civil War to the end of the Reconstruction in 1876.

Magazines from the period are the study subjects of this rigorously researched and elegantly written book, the first of a proposed three-volume trilogy by the University of Iowa's Kathleen Diffley. In particular, the author is interested in how domestic rhetoric, specifically that reflected in the themes of short magazine fiction, mirrored political and sociocultural change. Commendably, her conclusions are based on a thorough survey of more than 300 articles from sixteen publications, including not only, perhaps predictably, the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Weekly but also magazines produced outside the cultural hegemony of the Northeast such as Baltimore's Southern Magazine, the New National Era of Washington, and Chicago's Lakeside Monthly. Additionally, the complete texts of stories by three important authors, Mark Twain, John W. De Forest, and Rebecca Harding Davis, also are included.

In her close and quite scholarly analysis, Diffley suggests that three thematic genres defined the period: "Old Homestead" narratives, "Romances," and "Adventures. …