Yearning for redemption: The lost cause narratives and violent hopes of the American South
Brady, Trisha Michelle
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This project considers redemptive and anti-redemptive narratives as they engage the myth of the Old South and tell us about slavery, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction of the South. I analyze the rhetorical strategies of selected texts by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Chesnutt, and William Faulkner while using psychoanalytic and poststructuralist theories to discuss the yearnings for redemption or consolation that emerge when these authors attempt to mourn losses while longing for the promise of a future in moments of national crisis. While recollecting the national trauma of America–the Civil War, slavery, Reconstruction, and their lasting effects on individual psyches, society, and culture–all of the aforementioned authors point to the gap between the promise and the reality of America in the texts this project examines. This work attempts to discuss their literary efforts to make the national wounds that will not heal present for their readers so that they can work-through the failures of the past. I argue that the critical glances that Stowe, Melville, Chesnutt, and Faulkner create return to the traumas of slavery and the Civil War in order to bury the ghosts (of the unceremoniously buried Civil War dead and slaves) haunting the symbolic order and offer a violent hope for the future.