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War writing, War No More - the book review

Reviews

"War No More is a landmark study, the most important work on war writing to have emerged in many years. Brilliantly conceptualized, rigorously analyzed, and beautifully written, it poignantly dramatizes the rich legacy of the pacifist impulse while offering stunning new interpretations of such major authors as Whitman, Hawthorne, Melville, Crane, Twain, Howells and James. It should be required reading for anyone interested in American literature, history, and human rights."

—John Stauffer, Chair of History of America Civilization and Professor of English at Harvard University and author of GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

"This is a pathbreaking study, focusing not on patriotic gore but on patriotic pacifism.... The romance of war is a perennial element in the American literary imagination. Those who wrote against the grain, those who saw the immorality, the obscenity of war, in the 50 years during and after the Civil War, are the subjects of Cynthia Wachtell's fine book."

—Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University and the author of Remembering War: The Great War Between History and Memory in the Twentieth Century.

"Wachtell's work is an important contribution to American studies, combining a crucial literary and historical perspective... Wachtell musters a stunning wealth of evidence from writers both known and relatively unknown, from Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman to Joseph Kirkland and Frank Stockton. Her most impressively persuasive chapter discusses how the technological advances that made possible the shift from smooth-bore musket to machine gun, in less than half a century, closed down the long-running debate on war as a romantic endeavor and brought a virtual end to romantic war poetry . . . VERDICT: Highly recommended for all interested readers."

—Starred Review - Library Journal, August 2010, By Charles C. Nash

"War No More is an astute and eminently readable study that sheds much-needed light on the American antiwar literature produced in the five decades between the Civil War and the Great War"

—Karsten H. Piep, American Literature

"In this well-written, fast-paced, and remarkably efficient book, Cynthia Wachtell traces the rise of American antiwar literature from the Civil War to World War I... Challenging the conventional view that the American antiwar tradition arose in reaction to the blood and filth of World War I, Wachtell pushes back the chronology and shows that while the antiwar authors may have enjoyed unprecedented popularity and respectability after 1918, the impulse that drove them and the critiques they leveled were nothing new... This book stands as an important contribution."

—Michael T. Bernath, University of Miami, Civil War History

"Wachtell does a masterful job of uncovering many . . . neglected [anti-war] works, putting them in historical context, and establishing that there was, in fact, an American anti-war tradition. This is an excellent, eye-opening book."

—Marshall Poe, University of Iowa, host of "New Books in History"

"Wachtell's style is a model of clarity and unfussy prose effectively presented in scholarship of the highest order."

—James H. Justus, Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Department of English, Indiana University, and the author of The Achievement of Robert Penn Warren

"War No More is a fascinating and solid examination of the role Civil War-era literature played and the moral conflicts felt by the writers of that day."

—Michael Deeb, Civil War News.

"This book is a pleasure to read. It is scholarly without being academic, and is written with a real ear for the language -- and with grace."

—Jonathan Rowe, host of America Off-Line, KWMV, Point Reyes, CA

"War No More upends the standard chronology of American antiwar literature, showing that American writers routinely questioned the morality and sanity of warfare decades earlier than most scholars have imagined. . . . Wachtell employs an impressive collection of sources, ranging from well-known fictions to private correspondence. Readers will find her twenty-three pages of notes invaluable, and her bibliography will serve as an excellent introduction to the primary and secondary sources in the field. The writing itself is clear and precise, a rarity in academic prose and hence one of the greatest virtues of the book. . . . This important book offers readers the fund of knowledge necessary to reach their own conclusions about the power of literature, and moral protest, to shape American attitudes in the face of war."

--Craig A. Warren, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Cynthia Wachtell's excellent new book War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature 1861-1914 tells a story of war opposition overcoming self-deceptions, self-censorship, the censorship of the publishing industry, and public unpopularity, and establishing itself as a constant thread and genre of U.S. literature (and cinema)."

—David Swanson, author of War is a Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union

"A valuable and highly recommended book . . . Wachtell expertly demonstrates how the great authors expose the pro-war platitudes of the age."

—Tim Kendall, Professor of English at Exeter University and editor of The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry.

"Wachtell's most important contributions to the scholarship on anti-war writing concern those authors who wrote in the decades between the Civil War and the outbreak of World War I."

— J. Matthew Gallman, Professor of History at the University of Florida, The Journal of the Civil War Era.

"Wachtell is to be commended for her systematic look at the larger picture and her historical and literary contextualization of the writers and of the works she mentions. . . . War No More is well organized, easy to follow and informative, drawing upon a wealth of primary and secondary sources. All in all, it makes for a very good read."

—Claire Parfait, Professor of American Studies at Paris 13 University, Cercles.

"A well presented literary-historical study of 19th and early 20th century war writing. . . . A particularly good chapter examines Nathaniel Hawthorne's private concerns over the aims of the war."

—Andrew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors.

"War No More counters the traditional understand of World War I as the watershed event of anti-war literature by presenting . . . ample and varied evidence that American anti-war sentiment was born during the Civil War and reached its first peak at the onset of World War I. . . . Not only [is] Wachtell's examination of nineteenth-century ideology rich, . . . it is relevant to our continuous refining of democracy, individuality and the American identity."

—Margaret E. Wright-Cleveland, Florida State University, Studies in American Culture.

"[War No More] offers lessons and insights for anyone interested in the power of language and its role in confronting truth and presenting the true natures of war. . . . The section on Walt Whitman is particularly revealing, as Wachtell demonstrates how the poet struggled to reconcile his revulsion of warfare with the moral justification of the war."

—Greg Schreur, Englewood Review of Books.

"Citing 225 works in War No More, Wachtell provides a clearly written and comprehensive study of the writers within her purview. Besides examining well-known works about the Civil War such Whitman's Drum-Taps, De Forest's Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, and Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Wachtell provides context by examining contemporary reviews and articles."

—Richard Dilworth Rust, Emeritus Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Civil War Book Review.

"[There] is much to admire in War No More. The introduction, in which Wachtell writes of the reality of war and the language authors have used to obfuscate its ugliness and describe the indescribable, ought to be required, cautionary reading for anyone setting out to write about battle."

—Kenneth W. Noe, The Civil War Monitor.

©2012 Cynthia Wachtell. All Rights Reserved