The Martial Imagination
Cultural Aspects of American Warfare
Publication Year: 2013
However, only in the last several years have scholars begun using the term “cultural history of American warfare” to identify the study of how public discourse formulates these defining myths and narratives. This volume brings together scholarship from diverse fields in a common mission to demonstrate the usefulness and significance of studying the cultural history of American warfare.
The Martial Imagination: Cultural Aspects of American Warfare canvasses the American war experience from the Revolution to the War on Terror, examining how it infuses legitimacy and conformity with an urgency that contorts ideas of citizenship, nationhood, gender, and other pliable categories. The multidisciplinary scholarship in this volume represents the varied perspectives of cultural history, American studies, literary criticism, war and society, media studies, and public culture analysis, illustrating the rich dialogues that epitomize the cultural history of American warfare.
Bringing together both recognized and emerging scholars, this book is the first anthology to feature essays on this topic, comprising research from twelve authors who represent a wide range of experiences and disciplines. Their work uncovers new and surprising understandings of the American war experience that reveal the ways in which culture makers have grappled with the trauma of war, salvaged meaning from the meaningless, or advanced some ulterior agenda.
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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Terry made me do it. I first conceived of this anthology during several conversations I enjoyed with my colleague Terry Rioux, here at Lamar University. In trying to convey to her my approach to the study of the past, and more specifically warfare, I claimed that I practice cultural history. When she pressed me on what that meant, I not only realized that my own definition was quite imprecise, but that such imprecision is necessary for what I do—exploring the ambiguities and contradictions of meaning in the past. ...
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The martial imagination has profoundly impacted the ways in which Americans think of themselves. Wars bear forth the heroes that ostensi-bly define national character, provide the stories for the grand narratives of belonging, and serve as markers for essential moments of transformation. Throughout human history, communities and nations have traced their past by the wars they have fought. In what many scholars deem as the earliest historical text, Herodotus chronicled the Persian Wars of the fifth century ...
Part One: Militarization and Violence
Militarizing the Menagerie: American Zoos from World War II to the Early Cold War
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A zoo is a place of escape from the troubles of the world. A man can go there and forget about the Russians, inflation, and a nagging wife.William Mann, Director of the National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, Every cultural institution is involved, in one way or another, in this world maelstrom. In these times there are no happy, isolated, enchanted isles. As an ...
War and Trauma: Francis Parkman and the Challenge of Writing the Pain of the Other
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This chapter draws on recent theoretical and historical works that map the changing meaning of violence by exploring how bodily pain and trauma figured in Francis Parkman’s The Jesuits of New France in the Seventeenth Century published in 1867.1 These works remind us that violence and pain are cultural categories with historical specificities and relationships to other cat-egories of difference that historians must study.2 Bodily pain and the trauma that war produced construct a story of war that historians are only beginning ...
Agents of Destiny: The Texas Rangers and the Dilemma of the Conquest Narrative
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The Texas Ranger first entered the American imagination not as the solitary lawman who enforced an implacable justice but as the frontier warrior who wielded violence in the service of territorial conquest. By 1845 after the United States annexed Texas and war with Mexico loomed, the Ranger ideal emerged, but it bedeviled US audiences. They admired, cel-ebrated, and emulated the stories of Ranger exceptionalism and vitality, but they balked at the reports of their cruelty and hatred. Americans, after all, ...
Part Two: Gender and Ethnicity
A Prison without Bars: Charles Lee and the Society of Gentlemen Prisoners during the American Revolution
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The morning air of December 13, 1776, was interrupted with musket fire. A detachment of British dragoons, with intelligence from New Jersey Tories, had surrounded an old tavern, owned and operated by the widow White outside Basking Ridge, New Jersey. According to their information White’s tavern, a respectable inn that was once the court seat of Warren County, was lodging their prey. The leaders of the British dragoons, Col. William Harcourt and Banastre Tarleton, had thus surrounded Maj. Gen. Charles ...
From Maiden to Mambisa: Evangelina Cisneros and the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898
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...one year before the sinking of the Maine in 1898, US readers of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal were enthralled with the captiv-ity and rescue of Evangelina Cossío Cisneros. Imprisoned in 1896 for purportedly fighting off the sexual advances of a Spanish officer, Cisneros was jailed at the reform prison for women called Las Recojidas. Hearst’s brand of sensationalistic “yellow journalism” made commercial and ideological use of Cisneros’s story. The Journal’s story of an attractive, exoticized woman in need ...
Reconstructing Warriors: Myth, Meaning, and Multiculturalism in US Army Advertising after Vietnam
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...on November 9, 2006, with the United States engaged in wars in Afghan-istan and Iraq, the army and its new advertising agency, McCann Worldgroup, flooded television screens, radio stations, and internet websites with a fresh message, “There’s strong. And then there’s army strong.” Anchored by the tagline, “Army Strong,” the army claimed its new $200 mil-lion-a-year recruiting and branding campaign was meant to communicate, “The unique brand of strength the US Army finds and forges in its soldiers.” ...
Part Three: Imagination and Emotion
“Remember the Alamo” to “Remember the Maine”: The Visual Ideologies of the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars
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The predominant representations—or more precisely, misrepresenta-tions—of Latino peoples in popular visual accounts surrounding the US ventures into Mexico in 1846 and Cuba in 1898 played an essential role in the rationalization of continental and overseas expansion. Historians typically pair the Mexican-American conflict of 1846–1848 with the Civil War (1861–1865) because of its entanglement with the politics of extending slavery, an issue that increased southern states’ desires for secession. The Spanish-...
Virtuous Victims, Visceral Violence: War and Melodrama in American Culture
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The argument at the center of this essay is in some respects a simple one: that melodramatic conventions have provided a significant and persistent foundation—perhaps the most significant and persistent foundation—of cultural representations of American warfare; and that this conjunction has been largely overlooked in discussions of both melodrama and war. Across the last two centuries and across a range of media, the staging of national conflict in melodramatic terms has provided a way to assert the moral underpinnings ...
On Angels’ Wings: The Religious Origins of the US Air Force
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Manned, powered, heavier-than-air flight had been a fantasy of humans for centuries, with legends of Icarus and other mythical heroes chal-lenging the deities for the godlike power of flight, usually with disas-trous consequences. With the flight of the Wright brothers on December 17, 1903, a new age dawned of human mastery over the aerial domain, and as the world learned of the invention, the excitement was palpable and overwhelm-ing. The idea of conquering the heavens and expanding the domain of man ...
Part Four: Foretelling and Forgetting
The Prophecies of Civil War Soldiers: A History of the Future
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...“lord! You’d a-thought we was goin’ to a picnic from the way hit looked. And I reckon that was the way most of us felt about hit, too.” John Pentland expected “fun and frolic” when he joined the Twenty-Ninth North Carolina Infantry on his nineteenth birthday. He prophesied a romantic war of “about six months.” As Pentland recalled, the war promised “a chance to wear a uniform and to see the world, to shoot some Yankees and to run ’em north, and then to come back home and lord it over those who ...
Randall Wallace’s We Were Soldiers: Forgetting the American War in Viet Nam
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...at the turn-to-the-twenty-first-century American cultural remembrance nostalgically turned to admire the “good war”—World War II—while ignoring the American War in Viet Nam. During this period, journalist Tom Brokaw coined the phrase “the Greatest Generation” from the title of his 1998 book containing personal accounts American men and women, soldiers and civilians about their experiences and values during World War II. Shortly thereafter, the national World War II Memorial was under construction on ...
Marshaling the Imaginary, Imagining the Martial: Or, What Is at Stake in the Cultural Analysis of War?
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No field is more attuned to the present than military history, even though many of the people who are interested in it can seem nostalgic and back-ward-looking. Fear, especially what the current or next war may bring, on February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 crewmen. American journalists clamored for vengeance against the Spanish authorities they wrongly blamed for the accident. Three weeks later the Fifty-fifth Congress unanimously voted in support of Pres. William ...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series