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Lifelong Learning: Center City Philadelphia

Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore: Center City Philadelphia

Fall 2019 Course: The American Civil War (LLS 168PHL)

Meets Mondays, 6:45–9:15 p.m.
sept. 16-nov. 18, 2019 (except oct. 14 & 21)
3000 Two Logan Square (18th & Arch), Pepper Hamilton LLP

2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and 2017 witnessed the deadly violence associated with white supremacist rallies about a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia.

More words have been written and published about this war 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, the psychological scars of a generation?  

Why have Americans, from the North and the South, looked back to the Civil War to fight again and again the conflicts that prompted it 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 ended?

This course is a social and cultural (not 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                     
  • Manhood and womanhood in wartime              
  • The assassination of Lincoln and its ramifications
  • Representations of the war in popular culture (from the 1860s to the 20th century)
  • Civil War memory and continued controversies over Confederate monuments

The Professor:

Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History, has taught courses and seminars for 25 years on 19th-century America, the American Civil War, the cultural history of the U.S., and the history of gender and masculinity. He is the author of Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City (2002), co-editor of Crosscurrents in American Culture (2009), and is completing Murder in a Mill Town.