In The Unwritten War, Daniel Aaron examines the literary output of American writers—major and minor—who treated the Civil War in their works. He seeks to understand why this devastating and defining military conflict has failed to produce more literature of a notably high and lasting order, why there is still no "masterpiece" of Civil War fiction.
In his portraits and analyses of 19th- and some 20th-century writers, Aaron distinguishes between those who dealt with the war only marginally—Henry Adams, Henry James, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain-and those few who sounded the war's tragic import—Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner. He explores the extent to which the war changed the direction of American literature and how deeply it entered the consciousness of American writers. Aaron also considers how writers, especially those from the South, discerned the war's moral and historical implications.
The Unwritten War was originally published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1973. The New Republic declared, [This book's] major contribution will no doubt be to American literary history. In this respect it resembles Edmund Wilson's Patriotic Gore and is certain to become an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to explore the letters, diaries, journals, essays, novels, short stories, poems-but apparently no plays-which constitute Civil War literature. The mass of material is presented in a systematic, luminous, and useful way.
Introduction“They Break the Links of Union”Writers and PoliticsTaking SidesThe Fallen Angel and the Risen SaintThe “Wholesome Calamity”William Gilmore Simms and Southern WrongsGeorge Templeton Strong—Reluctant AbolitionistYankee Literati and the “Holy War”—Dr. HolmesJames Russell Lowell—Agitator-ConservatorEmerson Goes to WarA Philosophical View of the Whole AffairHawthorne: Lonely DissenterNeutralistChiefly About War MattersThe Terrible AllegoryWhitman: The “Parturition Years”Sounding the TocsinBlacks and Abolitionists“Deaths, Operations, Sickening Wounds”War—“The Real Article”“Lincoln's Man”The Convulsive YearsMelville: The Conflict of ConvictionsMelville and WhitmanBattle-Pieces as a War Narrative“Through Terror and Pity”Prophecies and MisgivingsThe “Malingerers”Henry AdamsThe Young StrategistQualms and IndecisionsThe House of Adams VictoriousProspects and PortentsThe Unwanted ManHenry JamesThe WoundFather and Sons“The Consecrating Sentiment”“A Poor Worm of Peace”The Blighted SouthWilliam Dean HowellsThe Inglorious AssignmentRediscovering the EnemyThe War AssessedLiterary ConsequencesMark TwainThe Comic MaskMark Twain's “Campaign”Huck and TomThe Fable of CatastropheDrawing-Room Warriors and CombatantsGentlemen of Peace and WarThe “Elevated” View—Stedman, Taylor & Co.War Poets on Sea and Land—H. H. Brownell and N. S. ShalerGentlemen-Soldiers—Captain O. W. Holmes, Jr., and OthersJohn W. De ForestA Volunteer's AdventuresWhites and Blacks in Pre-War DixieThe War in Document and FictionThe Recorders—Trashy and TrueAmbrose Bierce“Salad Days”War InternalizedThe Volunteer RemembersSoldiers v. Civilians“A Land of Peace and Pensions”Albion W. TourgéeCarpetbaggerSoldierTourgée in Fact and FictionTourgée's “History”Racism and the FutureThe War at Second HandStephen Crane and Harold FredericRecruits and VeteransHenry Fleming's “Conversion”Mutual AdmirersThe War in Dearborn CountyCopperheads and DesertersA Dissenting VoiceThe South: Onlookers and ParticipantsWriters in the ConfederacySouth Carolina QuixoteThe Promised RenascenceTimrod's WarLaunching the LegendThe Unwritten NovelCooke's CavaliersRichard Taylor—IronistDavid Hunter Strother—RealistMrs. Chesnut's SouthMrs. Chesnut Maps a StoryMrs. Chesnut's Unfinished “Novel”Sidney LanierThe Great WindTiger-Lilies and the Allegory of WarGeorge Washington CableThe Un-Southern ConfederateCable on the “Lost Cause”The GrandissimesReconstructing the Southern PastThe Neo-Confederates“A Holy Conviction Makes a Holy Cause”A Stand for DixieUses of the PastBiographical NarrativesAllen Tate and the Novel as HistoryThe Meditations of Robert Penn WarrenWilliam FaulknerFaulkner and AgrariansLicensed ChroniclerLegend-Makers (Men)Legend-Makers (Women)The Truths of FantasyConclusion “Such Was the War”Supplement 1 The War PrefiguredSupplement 2 Lincoln and the WritersSupplement 3 A Further Note on the “Collegians”Supplement 4 Emily Dickinson's “Private Campaign”Notes (with a Key to Abbreviations Frequently Cited)AcknowledgmentsIndex
Daniel Aaron is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at Harvard University and founding president of the Library of America series of classic writings by American authors. He has written many books on American history and literature, including Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives and American Notes.