This is the first book exclusively devoted to the Civil War writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, arguably the most important poets of the war. The essays brought together in this volume add significantly to recent critical appreciation of the skill and sophistication of these poets; growing recognition of the complexity of their views of the war; and heightened appreciation for the anxieties they harbored about its aftermath. Both in the ways they come together and seem mutually influenced, and in the ways they disagree, Whitman and Melville grapple with the casualties, complications, and anxieties of the war while highlighting its irresolution. This collection makes clear that rather than simply and straightforwardly memorializing the events of the war, the poetry of Whitman and Melville weighs carefully all sorts of vexing questions and considerations, even as it engages a cultural politics that is never pat.

“A critical examination of the two most significant Civil War poets that brings together some of the most talented and insightful Melville and Whitman scholars. ‘This Mighty Convulsion’ is timely and important.”—Randall Fuller, author, From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature
“Not only do these essays plumb deeply the aesthetic, political, historical, and critical dimensions of Whitman’s Drum-Taps and Melville’s Battle-Pieces, viewed both together and apart, but also they reveal scars the war left on the poets themselves—poignant residue of ‘this mighty convulsion’—that make their work timely and new.”—Wyn Kelley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“In the context of current political fractures in America, Sten and Hoffman’s fascinatingly illustrated collection recognizes ‘the ongoing cultural work of reparation and healing across racial and regional lines,’taking timely lessons from what Whitman described as the ‘agonising and lurid’ years of the Civil War.”—This Year’s Work in English Studies

Kyle Barton, Peter Bellis, Adam Bradford, Jonathan A. Cook, Ian Faith, Ed Folsom, Timothy Marr, Cody Marrs, Christopher Ohge, Vanessa Steinroetter, Sarah L. Thwaites, Brian Yothers

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Publication Details

Publication Date
Trim size
6 × 9
14 b&w photos, 4 b&w figures