Awaiting the Heavenly Country in Library Journal

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Great Library Journal review (in the February 15, 2008 issue) of Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death by Mark S. Schantz:

“Schantz makes a compelling case that Americans’ experiences with, and ideas about, death before the Civil War made it possible for them to understand—and even celebrate—death caused by the war. By closely reading landscapes, images, and all manner of writings on the ‘culture of death,’ Schantz discovers that Northerners and Southerners alike came to believe that how one approached death and how a people honored the dead revealed, even decided, matters of faith, community, and national identity. Schantz is especially perceptive at describing mourning rituals, the literature on heaven as a place of family reunion with full bodily restoration, the rural cemetery movement, and the illustration of death in lithographs, photography, and painting. He finds a strong strain of Greek revival and ancient mythology in Americans’ representation of what death demanded of men and women. When read in tandem with Drew Gilpin Faust’s recent This Republic of Suffering, we learn that for 19th-century Americans the ‘unifying power of death’ defined how one must live, and when the war came, it also made it easier to kill and to die. A sobering assessment for anyone who imagines war as a purifying process.”

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