Summary: This panel seeks to examine the relationship between the mimetic and the aesthetic in representations of the war across various media as a means of interrogating contemporary responses to and understandings of the conflict.
Abstracts due 15 September 2008
Capturing Conflict: Reconciling the Mimetic and the Aesthetic in Multimedia
Representations of the Civil War
40th Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
February 26 – March 1, 2008
Trying to explain the grip of the Civil War on the imagination of those at home, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. writes of a man who “always goes through the side streets on his way for the noon extra,—he is so afraid somebody will meet him and tell the news he wishes to read, first on the bulletin-board, and then in the great capitals and leaded type of the newspaper.” What Holmes’s account of the paths news traveled during the war fails to mention is that representations of the conflict circulated through more forms than the telegraphs and newspapers of his anecdote. In a common example, images of the war might be captured in photographs, which were copied in woodcuts, which appeared in illustrated magazines, where they inspired stories and poems among readers – stories and poems that circulated in other magazines and newspapers. Each stage in this process represents a move away from the mimetic representation of the conflict and toward an aesthetic representation that Alice Fahs argues led to an “understanding of the war as a literary event.” One of the interesting results of this process is that a single image or story that traveled through these different forms underwent intentional changes by the hands that performed the translation and unintentional changes demanded by the conventions and technologies that shaped the medium into which it was translated, and this process allowed new meanings to accrue and existing meanings to shift. The interplay of meaning across media provides a chance to examine how contemporary understandings of the war shaped and were shaped by aesthetic and technological demands of the time.
This panel seeks to examine the relationship between the mimetic and the aesthetic in representations of the war across various media as a means of interrogating contemporary responses to and understandings of the conflict. Papers could address conventions of representation in multiple media, responses of contemporary audiences to representations of the war in various formats, technological influences on authors or audiences of the period, or other topics involving media and aesthetics during the war.
Email 300 to 500 word abstracts to Michael Cadwallader at
cadwallader_at_unc.edu by 15 September 2008.
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