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book reviews75 graphic studies, ranging in subject matter from black troops in antebellum Louisiana and the "buffalo" soldiers in the postbellum West to the post-World War II racial integration of the armed forces as well as general histories and multi-volume collections of documents. The publication of The Sable Arm in 1956 marked a watershed in the historiography of the black military experience. By focusing on what T. Harry Williams at the time described as a "neglected side" of the Civil War, Dudley Cornish became an early and important participant in the revolution in black historical studies. Through his efforts and those of his contemporaries , the historical treatment of the United States' largest racial minority no longer subscribes to a "sublime Americanism" which ignores positive black notoriety. Willard B. Gatewood, Jr. University of Arkansas—Fayetteville Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the Phnters. By Steven M. Stowe. (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. Pp. xviii, 309. $29.50.) The remarkable fascination of non-southerners with the southern planter elite in particular and the antebellum South in general is one of the most persistent phenomena in modern historiography. The latest to venture into the exotic world of white-column mansions, hoop-skirted belles, and sweet-scented magnolias is Steven Stowe, a humanities professor in the College of Medicine at Pennsylvania State University. Drawing heavily upon theoretical and methodological works in such varied disciplines as linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and cultural and family history, Stowe seeks to explicate the cultural life of the planter elite through the language of ritual and daily routine as reflected in the letters of members of representative planter families. Although the "voices of the planters" are heard, they do not, as the author asserts, "fill this study" (p. x). Rather, they are frequently obscured by the extended analytical intrusions of the author, whose central themes frequently are difficult to comprehend. This clearly organized book is divided into two parts. In the first, Stowe examines three rituals—the affair of honor, courtship, and the coming of age—"through which the planters explored the meaning of worthiness, sexuality, and knowledge" (p. 1). In his discussion of these rituals the authoremphasizes the importance of language as a manifestation of cultural characteristics. According to Stowe, language was not only a vehicle for communication but also a form of behavior which, when properly interpreted, can yield insight into the values and perceptions of both individual planters and the social order over which they presided. After dissecting the anatomy of the three related but disparate rituals, Stowe illustrates the interplay between ritual and daily routine 76CIVILWAR HISTORY by examining chronological segments in the lives of three planter families—those of William Gaston and the Reverend Drury Lacy of North Carolina and that of Thomas Butler King, a Georgia sea island planter-politician. Space limitations permit only a cursory review of the salient themes which emerge from this complex and highly analytical work. Among other things, Stowe concludes that the planters adhered to and reveled in a hierarchical system of family and social beliefs; that the cultural world of the planters was compartmentalized according to sex and gender, which, more than race or class, defined planter values and actions; that there was a close correlation between personal self-esteem and the collective social order; and finally, that in order to maintain their elite status, the planters were driven toward an ostentatious exhibition of their beliefs—as in the rituals noted above—to such extent as to lead to a fusion of substance with image. As one who practices a more traditional version of the discipline of Clio, perhaps I am not properly appreciative of Professor Stowe's sophisticated interpretive abilities or his broad command of social science literature. Whatever the reason, I see two major problems with this study. First, the author tends to range far beyond the evidence in building his analysis, often attributing deep meaning to what appear to be the most innocuous and unremarkable expressions and actions. Second, by considering southern culture in a vacuum, admittedly eschewing any but the most superficial regional comparisons, he does not demonstrate convincingly that the so...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 75-76
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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