FYS 101 Gender in Crisis: The American Civil War

The Civil War transformed gender as perhaps no other event in American history. During this time, American writers began speaking of “embattled manhood” and of the “woman’s question” in new ways. The war gave women options socially that they had not had previously—nursing, spying, political activism, and, yes, even soldiering—just as it redefined men’s lives by suddenly testing their previous definitions of what it meant to be a man. Sexual mores changed dramatically as well. Gender in both the North and the South was redefined by a war in which hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives. Thousands of women suddenly had to confront a life without their husbands, brothers, lovers and sons, i.e., those who had previously defined who they were and what society expected of them. Family life and childhood, both North and South, both Black and White, altered irrevocably. In this course we will examine what became of America as a result of this crisis in gender, of this world of houses divided, of a nation scarred by battle. The course explores this crisis from both literary and historical perspectives, looking at the works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers.

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