American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era. By David W. Blight. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. 314. Cloth, $27.95.) If you are looking for a sequel to David Blight's masterful synthesis Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2002), you will not find it in American Oracle. Blight's contribution to the memory question in the Civil Rights era is at once more limited in its source material but more expansive in its reflections on the philosophy and character of American history. American Oracle is an intellectual history of four major authors: Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin. None was an academic historian, though Warren held an appointment at Yale and published The Legacy of the Civil War (1961) with a university press. What ties the four authors together is not only their brilliance as writers, but also their abiding interest in the "forces of tragedy" that drive American history. Each writer disrupts the familiar story of the Civil War and, by doing so, enables us to understand better "the weight of the past in any given present" (25). Blight's great gift on display here
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 29, 2012
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