Literature and the material cultures of Confederate remembrance

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This chapter examines the literary afterlives of white Confederates' household possessions, especially those damaged during military invasion, or degraded by the impoverishment experienced by elite white southerners in the Civil War’s aftermath. It argues that, alongside emancipation's arrival, the military incursion into southern plantations and wealthy households altered the premises of white possession beyond recall. The damaged objects left behind became more than just traces of enemy invasion to the privileged slaveholding women left to pick up the pieces. As these women revealed in their private journals, their own belongings represented a threat to the forms of selfhood and racial pedigree that had defined their antebellum lives. In exploring how ex-Confederate women, writing during Reconstruction, used fiction to reorganize and display their sullied possessions, this chapter outlines a material history integral to the myth of Confederate exceptionalism—a myth more recognizably reified by monuments to the Lost Cause.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge companion to the literature of the American Civil War and Reconstruction
EditorsKathleen Diffley, Coleman Hutchison
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781009159173
ISBN (Print)9781009159180, 9781009159197
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2022

Publication series

NameCambridge companions to literature


  • American Civil War literature
  • Confederate culture
  • Material culture
  • Reconstruction
  • Women writers
  • Nineteenth-century American Literature
  • Lost cause
  • Slaveholding women
  • Domesticity
  • The land we love
  • Marion Harland (Mary Virginia Terhune)
  • Margarety Mitchell


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