Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pg. 99: Michael T. Bernath's "Confederate Minds"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Confederate Minds: The Struggle for Intellectual Independence in the Civil War South by Michael T. Bernath.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the Civil War, Confederates fought for much more than their political independence. They also fought to prove the distinctiveness of the Southern people and to legitimate their desire for a separate national existence through the creation of a uniquely Southern literature and culture. In this important new book, Michael Bernath follows the activities of a group of Southern writers, thinkers, editors, publishers, educators, and ministers--whom he labels Confederate cultural nationalists--in order to trace the rise and fall of a cultural movement dedicated to liberating the South from its longtime dependence on Northern books, periodicals, and teachers.

This struggle for Confederate intellectual independence was seen as a vital part of the larger war effort. For the Southern nationalists, independence won on the battlefield would be meaningless as long as Southerners remained in a state of cultural vassalage to their enemy. As new Confederate publications appeared at a surprising rate and Southerners took steps toward establishing their own system of education, cultural nationalists believed they saw the Confederacy coalescing into a true nation. Ultimately, however, Confederates proved no more able to win their intellectual independence than their political freedom.

By analyzing the motives driving the struggle for Confederate intellectual independence, by charting its wartime accomplishments, and by assessing its failures, Bernath makes provocative arguments about the nature of Confederate nationalism, life within the Confederacy, and the perception of Southern cultural distinctiveness.
Michael T. Bernath is the Charlton W. Tebeau Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Miami.

The Page 99 Test: Confederate Minds.

--Marshal Zeringue