Campus News

Book examines how editorials shaped a postwar nation

The second in a series, “The Fateful Lightning: Civil War Stories and the Magazine Marketplace, 1861-1876” examines how sectional and regional conflicts shape a postwar nation, particularly for editorials. This book builds off the first in the trilogy, picking up where the last left off just after the completion of the Civil War.

Author Kathleen Diffley analyzes four literary journals from the time, comparing them to previous publications and to each other. Diffley analyzes the text but also the historical context of each literary piece, showing the deep cultural meaning as well as the literal. She argues that the journals present contradictory ideas about America, post-Civil War. They represent sectional conflict and commemorate the Civil War differently from each other, and differently from northeastern publications that she has analyzed in the past.

As there was rising social opportunity, political unrest, and conflicting investments of Reconstruction, “The Fateful Lightning” puts the ideas and writing of the time into historical context under a microscope.