Cover: American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, from Harvard University PressCover: American Oracle in PAPERBACK

American Oracle

The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

Product Details


$23.00 • £20.95 • €20.95

ISBN 9780674725973

Publication Date: 10/07/2013


328 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

4 halftones

Belknap Press


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The Civil War has given us not only great history, literature, and art, but also great works of thought. David Blight enriches this canon by probing the war’s power to haunt and inspire every generation. American Oracle is intellectual history at its best—deep terrain, mined by a scholar who brings gems to the page.—Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

The ghosts of the Civil War never leave us, as David Blight knows perhaps better than anyone, and in this superb book he masterfully unites two distant but inextricably bound events with insightful dissection of the works of four of our best writers…obsessed with coming to terms with our original sin.—Ken Burns

A searching and suggestive book.—Andrew Delbanco, The New York Review of Books

An introspective journey into America’s most complex and enigmatic historical event through the minds of four exceptional storytellers. [Blight] offers us the opportunity to revisit a monumental tragedy and…to probe its meaning.—James T. Crouse, Times Higher Education

David W. Blight’s richly interpretive American Oracle contextualizes the sentimentalized celebration of the Civil War in the early 1960s within the tense realities of the civil rights era and the Cold War. Blight unravels the complexities of Civil War memory and meaning at a time when most white Americans considered restoration of the Union, not emancipation, as the war’s grand result.—John David Smith, The Charlotte Observer

Blight explores the mythology that came out of the Civil War and the sense of American redemption that did not include any examination of the tragedies of racism and slavery.—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)

Truly a tour de force…intellectual history and criticism at the highest level, told with passion and artistry.—Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past

Perceptive, eloquent, and timely, Blight’s book should find a wide and appreciative audience.—Gary Gallagher, author of The Union War

During the middle decades of the twentieth century the United States faced a dual challenge—of civility and memory, each one race-related. David Blight develops deep biographical links to connect and explain those troubled years, and does so with eloquence. He thereby adds a brilliant new aspect to the field of American memory studies.—Michael Kammen, Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture (Emeritus) at Cornell University and Past President of the Organization of American Historians

Blight’s elegant narrative enables us to see the full, enduring, significance of the Civil War in the consciousness of four major writers. An outstanding achievement.—Caryl Phillips, author of Dancing in the Dark

This is a distinctive addition to the books about the Civil War and how we view it on the conflict’s 150th anniversary.Publishers Weekly

Overall a valuable contribution to historical understanding.—D. Schaefer, Choice

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