United States in the World 34: The Civil War from Nat Turner to Birth of a Nation

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United States in the World 34:

The Civil War from Nat Turner to Birth of a Nation


Spring 2013

Lectures filmed , Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00-1:00, Harvard Hall 202
Amanda Claybaugh, Professor of English, Barker Center 271

claybaug@fas.harvard.edu; 617-496-2235; Office Hours: M 2-4

John Stauffer, Professor of English, Barker Center 267

johnwstauffer@gmail.com; 617-642-7108; Office Hours: T 2-3 & by appt.

Tsione Wolde-Michael, Head Teaching Fellow

twolde1@gmail.com; Office Hours by appointment

Course description:

This interdisciplinary course examines the American Civil War from Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831 to the legendary history film, Birth of a Nation (1915), which coincided with the Jubilee of Appomattox. It changes our understanding of the conflict in three ways. First, by showing that civil war lasted much longer than the four years from 1861-65: it began with guerrilla war between masters and slaves, and between Northerners and Southerners in various states and the U.S. Congress; it evolved into a military war after Fort Sumter; and it became a terrorist war during and after Reconstruction. Second, by arguing that the Confederacy, in some sense, won the war: although the Confederacy was destroyed and the Constitution amended, the former slave owners nonetheless succeeded in creating a new order of black unfreedom. And third, by putting the war in international context: the United States was far from the only nation in the western hemisphere to grapple with slavery and abolition, although it was one of the very few to do so through war.

Throughout the course we explore how the war transformed literature, art, politics, history, and memory, while also revealing how these cultural forms shaped society and the war itself. “Readings” range from fiction, film, letters, and speeches to poetry, pamphlets, prints and photographs, songs, and history.
Required Texts (available at the Coop):

Herman Melville, Bartleby and Benito Cereno (Dover)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Norton Critical)

Abraham Lincoln, Great Speeches (Dover)

Louis Masur, The Civil War: A Concise History (Oxford)

*Drew Faust, This Republic of Suffering (Knopf) – *Please note that this text is highly recommended but optional for the course as only two chapters will be assigned.

David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard)

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (Norton)

Coursepack (readings marked *): either order online at http://harvardcoopbooks.bncollege.com or pick up at The Coop.
Optional Text (available at the Coop): D.W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation, DVD 190 min (A2ZCDS) —film can also be accessed online or during film screening

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (Norton)

Louis Masur, The Civil War: A Concise History (Oxford)
Course Requirements:

Weekly readings; viewing of two weekly lectures posted on the course website

Submission of weekly discussion questions (25%)

-Each Friday, beginning Feb 8, students must post one or two discussion questions based on the week’s readings and lectures by 10pm EST

Note: Students may miss one weekly discussion question posting with no penalty.

Participation in weekly online discussion forums (25%)

-Each week, discussion prompts will be posted on the course website by Saturday evening. Students will have until Tuesday at 10pm EST to post a 1-2 paragraph response in the discussion forums.

Note: Students may miss one weekly discussion forum post with no penalty. (averaging 120 pages per week)
Lecture attendance and section participation (10%)

4-6 page paper due on March 4 in class (20%)

Midterm exam, in sections, week of March 25 (20%)

Researcch projectt: proposal due on April 8 (10%)

; project due on May 3 (25%)

Final project due May 3 (40%)apers can take one of two forms:

1) Creative project (fiction, film, poetry, etc.), including a 3-4 page critical essay

in which you analyze your work within a formal and historical tradition); OR

2) 12-15 page essay, including 7 or more primary and secondary sources.

Final Examination (Essay and short analyses) (25%)

Course Schedule:

Part One: The Coming of the Civil War

Week One (Jan 28, 30): Introduction

Monday: Reconceptualizing the Civil War

Wednesday: Slavery and Abolition in International Context
Readings: (40pp)

*David Von Drehle, “The Civil War: 1861-2011” (10pp.)

(Also available online at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/


Blight, Race and Reunion (1-30)
Week Two (Feb 4, 6): The Coming Crisis, 1

Monday: Slave Revolts

Wednesday: The 1850s, Part 1
Readings: (58115pp)

*The Confessions of Nat Turner (15pp)

Begin Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Introduction and Chapter 1 (53100pp)

Week Three (Feb 11, 13): The Coming Crisis, 2

Monday: The 1850s, Part 2

Wednesday: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1
Readings: (64200pp)

Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Chapters 4, 8, 17100-300)

Week Four (Feb 20): “The Book That Started This Great War,”
Monday: President’s Day (No Class)

Wednesday: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 2

Readings: (46108pp)

Stowe,Finish Uncle Tom’s Cabin Chapters 25, 38, 40, 41, 45-408)

Week Five (Feb 25, 27): Classic Literature and the Sectional Crisis
Monday: Whitman’s Utopia

Wednesday: Melville’s Dystopia

Readings: (570pp)

Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (57pp)

Optional: *Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855): “I Sing the Body Electric”;

“A Boston Ballad”; “There Was a Child Went Forth” (13pp)

Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (57pp)

Part II: The Civil War

Week Six (March 4, 6): Douglass and Lincoln, On Secession and

Union War
First Paper Due in Lecture on Monday, March 4
Monday: Douglass and Lincoln and the Road to Secession

Wednesday: Douglass and Lincoln, On a Union War

Readings: (74135pp)
*Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July”; “The Doom of the

Black Power”; “The Inaugural Address”; “The President and His

Speeches” (30pp);

*John Parker’s Narrative, in Douglass’ Monthly (5pp)

Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided”; “Cooper Union”; “Inaugural Address,”

in Great Speeches (35pp)

*John Brown, “Speech to the Court at His Trial, Nov. 2, 1859 (2pp);

“Note to Jailor” (2 pp)


* Louis Masur, The Civil War, chs. 1-3 (50pp)

Louis Masur, The Civil War, chs. 1-3 (50pp)

*“Henry David Thoreau, “A Plea for Captain John Brown” (10 pp)

*Songs: (3pp)

Anon., “John Brown’s Body,” 1861

Julia Ward Howe, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” (1862)

Anon., “Dixie,” (1861)

Friday March 8, 9:00 – 12:00:

Attendance Optional (please RSVP in advance to professors if you plan to attend):

Walking Tour of Civil War Boston, led by Professors Stauffer and

Claybaugh and National Park Service Ranger Ryan McNabb.
Meet at St. Gaudens’ Memorial on Boston Common at 9:00 am.

Week Seven (Mar 11, 13): Fighting for Freedom
Monday: Fighting

Wednesday: An Experiment in Freedom: The Sea Islands

Readings: (68133 pp)

*Pierce, “The Freedmen at Port Royal” (19 pp)

*Grimke, selections from Journals (49 pp)


*Towne, selections from Letters and Diary (37 pp)

*Botume, selections from First Days (28 pp)

Week Eight (Mar 18, 20): Spring Break

Week Nine (Mar 25, 27): Living-Room War, Abolition War
Midterm Exam in Sections
Monday: Civil War as Living Room War

Wednesday: Lincoln and Douglass, On Abolition War

Readings (5082pp):

*Frederick Douglass, “A Day for Poetry and Song”; “The Slaveholders’

Rebellion”; “Men of Color to Arms” (20pp)

Abraham Lincoln, “Message to Congress, Dec 1862”; “Final Emancipation

Proclamation,” “Gettysburg Address”; “Second Inaugural”; “Last Public

Address,” in Great Speeches (30pp)


Louis Masur, The Civil War, chs. 4-6, epilogue (50pp)

Part III: Reconstruction and Redemption
Week Ten (April 1, 3): The Nature of War, Reconstruction War
Monday: The Work of Death (Guest Lecture by President Drew Faust)

Wednesday: Presidential Reconstruction

Readings (35-65100 pages):

Drew Faust, This Republic of Suffering, chs. 1 and, 2, 5

AND/OR, epilogue

Drew Faust, The Civil War Soldier and the Art of Dying (article available on JSTOR)

Week Eleven (April 8, 10): Reconstruction
Project proposal due on April 8 in lecture.
Monday: The Summer of 1865

Wednesday: Congressional Reconstruction

Readings (43(139 pp):

*Foner and Walker, selections from Proceedings (18 pp)

*Reid, selections from After the War (25 pp)


*Andrews, selections from The South Since the War (61 pp)

*Dennett, selections from The South as it Is (35 pp)

Week Twelve (April 15, 17): Blacks in Office, Remembering the War, 1
Monday: Reconstruction’s End

Wednesday: Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, 1

Readings (41146pp):

*De Forest, “The Colored Member” (9 pp)

*Pike, selections from The Prostrate State (15 pp)

*Lynch, selections from Facts of Reconstruction (17 pp)


Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (105 pp)

Week Thirteen (April 22, 24): Remembering the War, 2
Monday: The Red Badge of Courage, 2

Wednesday, Birth of a Nation, 1

Readings: (60pp)

D.W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation, DVD (1915)

Blight, Race and Reunion (338-97)

Week Fourteen (April 29, May1): Causes Lost and Won
Monday: Birth of a Nation, 2

Wednesday: Conclusion

Readings: (23pp)

*U.B. Phillips, American Negro Slavery excerpts (10pp); “The Central Theme of

Southern History” (13pp)
Projects due on May 3 at 5:00 p.m.
Final Exam on ?? in ?? at ??

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