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American oracle : the Civil War in the civil rights era
David W. Blight
Adult Nonfiction E468.5 .B55 2011

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From Publishers' Weekly:

This inaptly titled book is a set of critical reflections on the racial attitudes and historical views of four great American writers-James Baldwin, Bruce Catton, Robert Penn Warren, and Edmund Wilson (and in an epilogue, Ralph Ellison)-around the time of the Civil War centennial 50 years ago. A Yale historian of the Civil War and its aftermath, Blight knows we're all limited by our origins and times, and each of his essays take up the ways each writer, Northern or Southern, black or white, addressed race and sectional reconciliation and how they got tripped up in their complications. Robert Penn Warren, for instance, "loved ambiguity" and believed truth about as significant an event as the Civil War "was just too messy and elusive." While spending too many words on each author's biography, Blight deftly reviews the critical reception, negative as well as positive, of each writer's works. Much contemporary criticism foreshadowed Blight's open-eyed evaluation of the works by which his writers are now most recalled. Still, this is a distinctive addition to the books about the Civil War and how we view it on the conflict's 150th anniversary. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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