New Guest Post Series: Civil War Classics

I am pleased to announce a new series of guest posts that will be authored by graduate students who are enrolled in Professor Peter Carmichael’s Readings Course at West VirginiaUniversity.  Professor Carmichael and I have been talking about doing this for some time now.  Students are required to write a 300-500 word review of a Civil War classic and then participate in any dialogue that may follow.  The only criteria for selecting a book is that the author needs to be dead.  A few of the students have already contacted me with information about their particular titles and I suspect that the first reviews will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.

I like this idea for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, it introduces young scholars to the possibilities associated with social media.  Many of Professor Carmichael’s students hope to enter the field of Public History, which has been particularly strong in taking advantage of social media tools such as blogging and, especially, Twitter.  Organizations such as the Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia Historical Society, and Lincoln Cottage are just a few that come immediately to mind.  From my vantage point, however, it looks like History Departments have been slow to acknowledge the possibilities associated with social media tools.  The exception has been in the area of digital history.  I thoroughly enjoyed following their commentary on the state of the field at the recent AHA through Twitter [use the hashtag #AHA2010].  It goes without saying that the growth of digital history and the culture that each generation brings to the field will lead to even more dramatic changes in how History Department’s evaluate social media.

p.s. I don’t think we are going to see a review of anything by Bruce Catton.  I just liked the photo.

9 comments… add one

  • Will Hickox Jan 19, 2010

    Why do you not expect anything by Catton? I'm not jumping up to defend him, just curious. The man was a great storyteller and he certainly knew how to sell Civil War books, but personally I find his style too folksy and anecdotal for real historical work. But hey, who am I to criticize a Pulitzer winner?!

    • Kevin Levin Jan 19, 2010

      Thanks for calling me on that. I didn't mean to downplay Catton's significance. If I remember correctly, I didn't see Catton on the reading list for Carmichael's class. That's not surprising given that these courses tend to focus on books that are much more analytical.

    • toby Jan 21, 2010

      Catton is easily knocked … but all I know is that reading his trilogy was a watershed for me. After reading it, I became an avid reader on the ACW, starting with military history then moving on to the associated politics, Lincoln and slavery. Somehow he opened my eyes to a great drama in which I have never lost interest.

      There are probably others like me.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2010

        I couldn't agree more. It may be a cliche, but it does indeed take a special gift to make the past come alive.

  • DB Jan 19, 2010

    This sould be very enlightening.

  • markrcheathem Jan 19, 2010

    Good idea, Kevin.

  • msimons Jan 19, 2010

    I am going to go to the library and check out Cattons Trilogy and Re read the whole set starting this week. I have not read them in nearly 20 years.

  • Chris Evans Apr 2, 2010

    Here’s an interesting article on Catton ,who is one of my favorite writers on the Civil War. I am always struck by his ability to make the war come alive. Catton’s Army of the Potomac trilogy is still such an amazing work because you feel like you are there marching with the men into battle and into the teeth of certain death. I find ‘Stillness at Appomattox’ to be a truly amazing book. One of the best book ever on the Civil War fiction or nonfiction, in my opinion.

    I also greatly enjoy his books on Grant because I think they really give due to one of my favorite characters of the war.

    His Civil War Centennial trilogy is also excellent in discussing complicated political and social issues in easily readable prose.
    Thanks,
    Chris

    http://www.mynorth.com/My-North/June-2009/He-Rewrote-History/

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