American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

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Author: Bruce E. Baker
Date: Feb. 2013
From: Journal of Southern History(Vol. 79, Issue 1)
Publisher: Southern Historical Association
Document Type: Book review
Length: 778 words
Lexile Measure: 1280L

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American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era. By David W. Blight. (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. [x], 314. $27.95, ISBN 978-0-674-04855-3.)

David W. Blight's American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era is a very different kind of book than Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), for which Blight scoured the archives to produce a comprehensive argument about the historical memory of the Civil War up to 1915. The new book deliberately narrows its scope to just four writers--Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin--and considers them in depth. While American Oracle is a history of the literary and intellectual engagement of these writers with the Civil War in the early 1960s, it is perhaps more accurate to describe the book as a meditation.

It is logical to start with Warren, the grandson of a Confederate veteran, who wrestled with questions of regional identity and history all his life. Blight provides a precis of Warren's career, noting those points where the writer dealt with Civil War themes, particularly in the 1961 novel Wilderness:...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A319613867