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Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American…

Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Uncivil Wars)

by Megan Kate Nelson

Series: UnCivil Wars

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Megan Nelson is a history lecturer at Harvard. She has earned a BA in History and Literature from Harvard and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa. She has numerous historical nonfiction books to her name, as well.
Her book, Ruin Nation, is part of the UGA Press UnCivil Wars series. On of eight books in the series, Nelson's examines the effects of the American Civil War on the natural and man-made landscape. As the name implies, this book examines ruins.
The content of book is partitioned into four sections, plus an introduction, and a conclusion. Very interestingly, she also includes the human body and psyche as ruins. The war that saw more American casualties than any other war provided its fair share of amputations. As a disabled veteran, I had never thought of my body as a site of historical ruins. So, the angle she takes- that ruins can cover a wide spectrum- really piques my interest.
Additionally, Ruin Nation contains roughly forty pages of notes, a 30 page bibliography, and an index. ( )
  Igraham1 | May 9, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0820342513, Paperback)

During the Civil War, cities, houses, forests, and soldiers’ bodies were transformed into “dead heaps of ruins,” novel sights in the southern landscape. How did this happen, and why? And what did Americans—northern and southern, black and white, male and female—make of this proliferation of ruins? Ruin Nation is the first book to bring together environmental and cultural histories to consider the evocative power of ruination as an imagined state, an act of destruction, and a process of change.

Megan Kate Nelson examines the narratives and images that Americans produced as they confronted the war’s destructiveness. Architectural ruins—cities and houses—dominated the stories that soldiers and civilians told about the “savage” behavior of men and the invasions of domestic privacy. The ruins of living things—trees and bodies—also provoked discussion and debate. People who witnessed forests and men being blown apart were plagued by anxieties about the impact of wartime technologies on nature and on individual identities.

The obliteration of cities, houses, trees, and men was a shared experience. Nelson shows that this is one of the ironies of the war’s ruination—in a time of the most extreme national divisiveness people found common ground as they considered the war’s costs. And yet, very few of these ruins still exist, suggesting that the destructive practices that dominated the experiences of Americans during the Civil War have been erased from our national consciousness.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:49 -0400)

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