Post-54: Reconstructing Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Post-54” examines the role of civil war memory in US literature written from the civil rights movement to the present. Southern massive resistance to Brown v. Board of Education featured a revival of “Lost Cause” sentiment and Confederate symbolism in civil war narratives of military valor, mutual sacrifice, and sectional reconciliation. Whether embodied in public monuments or depicted in feature films, civil war memory circulates through cultural narratives whose generic form often performs ideological functions: chivalric romance underwrites racial violence, pastoral elegy encodes agrarian ideology, alternate history invites Confederate apologetics, and concepts of tragedy undo narratives of emancipation. Through literary works that simultaneously inhabit and transfigure these generic forms, writers from the civil rights era and the contemporary moment advance counternarratives of civil war memory that debunk lost cause mythology to intervene in what they portray as the unfinished and ongoing civil war over human rights and racial justice.