Tag: Civil War


‘Social Death’ and ‘Possessive Individual’ according to Grace Hong

Grace Hong’s essay titled ‘The Possessive Individual and Social Death: The Complex Bind of National Subjectivity’ offers numerous insights into historical social constructs.  Focusing on the evolution of American history since the time of the Declaration of Independence, the author charts a cogent description of how the socio-polity resisted progressive changes.  The book is focused on women of color feminism and the culture of immigrant labor. But prior to arriving at their specific discourse, a broader framework of understanding is laid out. Hereby, two important terms are introduced by the author.

Possessive individual traces its origins to the framing of the constitution, whereby, only the propertied white males of the new country were accorded citizenship.  Not only were blacks (who were slaves at the time) were excluded, but so were women and a large section of white male population. The privileged minority of propertied white men enjoyed laws that . . . Read More

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American History: Reconstruction Era

The American Civil War the period following it was critical in the nation’s history and it has deeply influenced subsequent social and political developments.  The Civil War would have its most important effect on the lives of millions of African American slaves, as a large proportion of them would be decreed ‘free’ toward the end of the war.  Despite historical injustices suffered by them, black Americans exhibited bravery in the battle grounds as they joined forces with fellow Unionists and staked their lives for the promise of emancipation.  Having achieved their freedom from their white masters, African Americans would celebrate their newly won liberties and rights in the years following the war – also referred by historians as the period of Reconstruction.  In the book America: A Concise History by James Henretta and David Bordy, we get in-depth analysis and commentary on this crucial period in American history.

We learn from the text that the . . . Read More

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Two great speeches: Ain’t I a Woman and Address to the People of the Free States

What do Ain’t I a Woman and Address to the People of the Free States by the President of the Southern Confederacy tell us about the divisions between people in United States during the 1860s? 

The 1860s were a tumultuous time in the history of the United States.  Public discourse and debate centered on the economic, cultural and political divisions between the northern and southern states of the union.  The two speeches in question were delivered in the context of an impending military implosion between the two sides.  The speech titled Ain’t I a Woman was spontaneously delivered by Sojourner Truth – a slave woman from New York State – on 29th May, 1851.  She makes a passionate appeal in her speech towards all Americans, to make a case for racial and gender equality for all black women.  She implores the audience to think about the privileges and comforts enjoyed by white women and men that are not extended for blacks.  When . . . Read More

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Whitman’s Poetry and American Identity

Born on 31st May, 1819, Walt Whitman is an iconic figure in the history of American literature. His lifetime’s work, especially his poetry, has come to define the sentiments, aspirations and experiences of American citizens in the nineteenth century. Although Whitman was not active politically, he expressed his political views through his poetry. Having lived through the turbulence of the Civil War, he developed passionate views on the nature and complexion of American polity. Whitman envisioned America to be a vibrant multicultural society. This vision he expressed in many of his poems. The poem Passage to India is a good example of this idealism, which perhaps waned a little during the excesses of the Gilded Age. (Pannapacker, 2004, p.45) Through the medium of this art form, Whitman synthesized his notion of the American identity, encompassing within it concepts such as national sovereignty, individual freedom and democratic polity. For example,

“During this . . . Read More

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A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner – A Review

A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner is an important addition to documented American history.  The American Civil War  and its aftermath is a critical period in the nation’s history and one that profoundly influenced subsequent socio-political developments.  The Civil War would have its most important effect on the lives of millions of African American slaves, as a large proportion of them would be decreed ‘free’ toward the end of the war.  Having achieved this concession from their white masters, African Americans would rejoice their newly won liberties and rights in the years following the war – also referred by historians as the period of Reconstruction.  Eric Foner’s book offers an in-depth analysis and commentary on this crucial period in American history.  Since there are already numerous books dealing with the Reconstruction era, the necessity for yet another authorial perspective and interpretation is to be questioned.  But Foner . . . Read More

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Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865, by Noah Andre Trudeau

The book titled Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, written by Noah Andre Trudeau is an important historical book, for it exclusively deals with the experience of African American combatants during the Civil War.  While there is copious scholarly literature on the Civil War, this book offers a unique apolitical perspective on the Civil War, in that the black Union soldiers’ experience of the war was markedly different from what their white colleages went through.  For example, when Confederates captured black Union soldiers, the treatment meted out to them was far more severe and savage than how captured white soldiers were treated.  Even within the Union army, blacks faced more rigorous punishments for not properly following orders than their white colleagues.  In other words, for black Union soldiers, the enemy was both within and without.  And many of them joined the Union army out of desperation and inevitability rather than any real hope for . . . Read More

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Documentary Film Analysis: Dark Days (2000)

The documentary film Dark Days, conceived and filmed by Marc Singer, is one of the modern classics of the genre. The film presents little known darker realities of the most prosperous city in the world New York. The usage of rudimentary cinematic devices and techniques is consistent with the central theme of the film. The film captures the lives of half a dozen homeless Americans taking shelter in the abandoned sections of a railway tunnel. Adding irony to the situation is the fact that this underground dungeon is within the vicinity of Manhattan, which is home to the most powerful and prosperous business institutions in the world. This essay will delve into various aspects of the film Dark Days by way of relating them to the broader social, cultural and political contexts.

Firstly, homelessness in the United States can be traced back a long way. The direct and circumstancial evidence for this is available in literary and performing arts of the last one and half centuries. . . . Read More

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Video Production – The Importance of Documentaries

Electronic media has always been advertisers’ medium.  Almost all popular electronic media of today – radio, television, the internet, movies, DVDs, etc are predominantly used as tools to leverage commerce and consumerism.  In this scenario, what could be the role that documentary films play? Do they hold special significance in terms of their artistic and informative merits?  Do they have any drawbacks? What does the future hold for this genre?  The rest of the essay attempts to answer these questions.

Some of the advantages . . . Read More

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The Wound Dresser by Walt Whitman

A Portrait of Walt Whitman

The Wound Dresser is an intimate, graphic and deeply moving expression of the act of nursing the sick and dying. The poem is remarkable for its lack of exaggerated portrayals of pain and suffering. Yet, the attention to detail, the depiction of images, etc. are very sophisticated for a poem written in the nineteenth century. In other words, The Wound Dresser is a description of what Walt Whitman deemed significant to the nursing profession at the time of the poem’s composition. He describes with . . . Read More

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