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The Martial Imagination

Cultural Aspects of American Warfare

Jimmy L. Bryan

Publication Year: 2013

Martial experiences and the mythologies that surround them have profoundly affected the ways in which Americans think of themselves. Wars identify the heroes who help define national character, provide the stories for the grand narratives of belonging and sacrifice, and serve as markers for essential moments of transformation.

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

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Editor's Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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. ...

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pp. 1-12

The martial imagination has profoundly impacted the ways in which Americans think of themselves. Wars bear forth the heroes that ostensibly define national character, provide the stories for the grand narratives of belonging, and serve as markers for essential moments of transformation. ...

Part One: Militarization and Violence

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Militarizing the Menagerie: American Zoos from World War II to the Early Cold War

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pp. 15-35

In April 1951, Julian Frazier, the swaggering director of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, revealed the existence of a secret disaster plan designed to meet the dangers of the atomic age. Interviewed by a local paper, Frazier declared that, in the event of a Soviet attack, the zoo’s most “dangerous” residents— ...

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War and Trauma: Francis Parkman and the Challenge of Writing the Pain of the Other

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pp. 36-52

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 ...

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Agents of Destiny: The Texas Rangers and the Dilemma of the Conquest Narrative

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pp. 53-70

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. ...

Part Two: Gender and Ethnicity

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A Prison without Bars: Charles Lee and the Society of Gentlemen Prisoners during the American Revolution

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pp. 73-87

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. ...

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From Maiden to Mambisa: Evangelina Cisneros and the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898

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pp. 88-106

One year before the sinking of the Maine in 1898, US readers of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal were enthralled with the captivity 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. ...

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Reconstructing Warriors: Myth, Meaning, and Multiculturalism in US Army Advertising after Vietnam

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pp. 107-120

On November 9, 2006, with the United States engaged in wars in Afghanistan 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.” ...

Part Three: Imagination and Emotion

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“Remember the Alamo” to “Remember the Maine”: The Visual Ideologies of the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars

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pp. 123-146

The predominant representations—or more precisely, misrepresentations— 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. ...

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Virtuous Victims, Visceral Violence: War and Melodrama in American Culture

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pp. 147-162

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. ...

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On Angels’ Wings: The Religious Origins of the US Air Force

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pp. 163-180

Manned, powered, heavier-than-air flight had been a fantasy of humans for centuries, with legends of Icarus and other mythical heroes challenging the deities for the godlike power of flight, usually with disastrous consequences. With the flight of the Wright brothers on December 17, 1903, a new age dawned of human mastery over the aerial domain, ...

Part Four: Foretelling and Forgetting

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The Prophecies of Civil War Soldiers: A History of the Future

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pp. 183-200

“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.” ...

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Randall Wallace’s We Were Soldiers: Forgetting the American War in Viet Nam

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pp. 201-218

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 ...

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Marshaling the Imaginary, Imagining the Martial: Or, What Is at Stake in the Cultural Analysis of War?

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pp. 219-234

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 McKinley’s $50-million bill for the “national defense.” ...


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pp. 235-236


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pp. 237-248

Back Cover

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p. 268-268

E-ISBN-13: 9781623490904
E-ISBN-10: 1623490901
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490218

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013