Lifelong Learning New York City

Lifelong Learning at  Swarthmore: New York City

Spring 2015:

The American Civil War (LLS 168NY)
Meets Thursdays, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m.
Feb. 12 – April 9, 2015 (except March 19)
1095 6th Ave. (bet. 41st & 42nd), 28th floor, @ Dechert LLP

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. More words have been written and published about this conflict than any other event in U.S. history. How can we explain this fascination? Was it the clash over racial slavery, the unprecedented carnage, the more than 750,000 deaths, and the psychological scars of a generation? And why have Americans, from the North and the South, looked back to the Civil War to fight again and again the conflicts that prompted the war in the first place: the incompatibility of the nation’s noblest ideas of liberty and equality with its entrenched systems of racial inequality? Has the war ever finished?

This course is a social and cultural (not a military) history of the Civil War. It examines the central themes of American history that the war exposed—slavery, freedom, equality, citizenship, racial justice, violence, and constructions of gender. The course also focuses on how the Civil War has been a fight over memory in popular culture for the past 150 years.

Major topics:

  • Slavery, antislavery, and the origins of the Civil War
  • Nationalism (Confederate and Union)
  • Death and violence in American culture
  • Gender (masculinity and womanhood) in wartime
  • The assassination of Lincoln and its ramifications for the United States
  • Representations of the war in popular culture (from the 1860s to the 20th century)
  • Memory, the “Lost Cause,” and continued controversies over remembering the war

The Professor:

Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History, has taught courses and seminars for over twenty years on 19th-century America, the American Civil War, the cultural history of the United States, and the history of gender and masculinity. He is the author of Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City (2002) and co-editor of Crosscurrents in American Culture (2009).