Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar: Representing the American Civil War | Newberry

Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar: Representing the American Civil War

Art, History, and Literature, 1820-1890
Tuesday, January 14, 2014Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 – 4 pm

Representing the American Civil War: Art History, and Literature, 1820–1890


Marcy J. Dinius, DePaul University
Margaret M. Storey, DePaul University

About the Seminar

The American Civil War (1861-1865) has been the subject of nearly continuous popular and scholarly interest since it was fought. Now, during the sesquicentennial anniversary of these events, we continue to be fascinated by the conflict’s scale of death (recent estimates put the number of soldier deaths near 750,000), the centrality of slavery to the war’s causes and outcomes, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the meaning and significance of the war for national identity and culture.

Drawing on recent scholarship and the Newberry’s extensive collection of primary documents and artifacts, “Representing the Civil War” will explore the ways that Civil War Americans, North and South, struggled to explain, depict, and comprehend the complex and momentous events surrounding this conflict. Our topics will include the political, social, and cultural features of the antebellum North and South; the major causes of Confederate secession and the war; the nature of battlefield experience; major facets of home front life, including the production of images, literature, and music about the war; the impact of the war on slavery and ideas about constitutional and racial equality; and the complexities of “peace” and the way that the conflict itself was, and is, remembered. As much as possible, our goal will be to understand the Civil War as it unfolded and from the point of view of the participants, shedding our preconceived ideas about the war and its meaning while doing so.

Central to this work will be an ongoing engagement with and analysis of original artistic, historical, and literary materials from the years 1820-1890, including poetry and novels, newspapers and broadsides, letters and memoirs, sketches and paintings, sheet music and political pamphlets, regimental histories and magazines. Immersed in these sources, each student will identify his or her own research question through which to build a substantial academic research project grounded in the Newberry’s extensive Civil War-era holdings.

About the Instructors

Marcy J. Dinius is an assistant professor of English at DePaul University and specializes in nineteenth-century American literature, print history, and early photography. She is the author of The Camera and the Press: American Visual and Print Cultures in the Age of the Daguerreotype and is currently writing a new book on Graphic Violence: Radical Abolitionist Print and Visual Culture.

Margaret M. Storey is an associate professor of History at DePaul University and specializes in history of the nineteenth-century American South with a focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is the author of Loyalty and Loss: Alabama’s Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the editor of the memoir of Tennessee Union cavalrymen, Thomas J. Cypert: Tried Men and True, or Union Life in Dixie. She is currently at work on a project about federally-occupied Civil War Memphis.