Thursday, August 05, 2010

What is Cynthia Wachtell reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Cynthia Wachtell, author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914.

Her entry begins:
I know a fair bit about American war writing of the past. In my book, War No More, I reveal how Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and other writers of the Civil War era boldly challenged conventional ways of writing about war, and I trace the remarkable rise of antiwar writing from the late nineteenth century to the eve of World War I.

I do not know nearly as much about American war writing of the present. This summer I set out to address that. I assigned myself the task of selecting three books in three different genres about three countries caught up either directly or indirectly in the current conflicts: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Also, I wanted to read what other Americans are reading, so I tried to find books that have proven popular. I chose Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (fiction); Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea (non-fiction); and...[read on]
Among the early praise for War No More:
"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 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
Cynthia Wachtell is an assistant professor of English at Yeshiva University in New York City.

Visit the War No More website.

Writers Read: Cynthia Wachtell.

-Marshal Zeringue