622 }EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE: VOLUME 50, NUMBER 2 Sacred Relics: Pieces of the Past in Nineteenth-Century America TEREsA BARNETT Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013 250 pp. Teresa Barnett's Sacred Relics analyzes the way nineteenthcentury Americans revered objects from the past, tracing a shift in perceptions of what constituted a true historical object. Embedded in this study is an examination of modes of memory that transformed from the sentimental to the historical, a development that the author attributes partially to industrialization but also to emotional and cognitive responses to the Civil War. Key to Barnett's discussion is the distinction between the "association item" or "relic" that elicits an emotional response to the past and the more scientific "evidentiary object" that provides "hard, analyzable evidence about the specifics of the past" (24). At stake in this divide is what is potentially lost when the discipline of history--based as it is on a rigorous analysis of written documents, and to a lesser extent on objects with observable characteristics--leaves little room for the so-called unscientific relic that does not fit neatly into a synoptic series or a sequential retelling of the past. Professional history of the late nineteenth century, Barnett notes,
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jun 21, 2015
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