Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Committee Member
Number of Pages
Civil War and Reconstruction America has both fascinated and stumped scholars for decades. Nineteenth-century Americans daily confronted a myriad of contradictions about race and reunion that needed, yet eluded, reconciliation. Questions of race and reunion were by no means polarized into only two perspectives for many Americans; rather, a tremendous middle ground existed, a middle ground in which people like Herman Melville tried to make sense of a confusing political and social climate that struggled to find a place for union, equality, and liberty for all Americans, white and black. One of the best examples of this difficulty in trying to define the topsy-turvy political and social chaos that encompassed the years of war and the months that followed the cease-fire was Herman Melville's book Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, published in 1866. Battle-Pieces presents a forward-thinking perspective that in many ways looks ahead to Reconstruction America and to the development of what historians have begun to see as the "romance of reunion" that dominated postbellum politics and social remembrance well into the twentieth century. By utilizing the many different voices that resounded so firmly after the Civil War ended, Melville created a powerful poetic rendering of the contradictions that stood both inside and outside the "romance of reunion."; Melville did not hesitate to recognize heroism on both sides, differentiate between the people and the causes they supported, and most importantly define the most important link that could bind America together---common humanity. In so doing, Melville stood in the shadow of another great American, Abraham Lincoln. Though Melville devoted only one poem to Lincoln specifically, Lincoln's philosophy of magnanimity and charity is evident throughout Battle-Pieces. Only by drawing upon a common history, a firm belief in democracy, and above all basic human kindness, could the nation truly experience the "new birth of freedom" that Lincoln envisioned in the Gettysburg Address, a vision shared by Herman Melville. Battle-Pieces is not just Melville's private reverie about the issues of his day. The book is Melville's instruction for greatness to a nation ripped apart by civil war, racial tension, and political partisanship.
American; Aspects; Battle; Battle-pieces And Aspects Of The War; Herman Melville; Knowledge; Melville; Melville, Herman; Race; Reconciliation; Tragic Knowledge; Vision; War
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Comeford, AmiJo, ""Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War": Melville's vision of race, reconciliation, and America's tragic knowledge" (2005). UNLV Retrospective Theses & Dissertations. 2649.