The Fateful Lightning
download cover image ►

The Fateful Lightning

Civil War Stories and the Magazine Marketplace, 1861-1876

Title Details

Pages: 268

Illustrations: 43 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6065-2

List Price: $38.95

The Fateful Lightning

Civil War Stories and the Magazine Marketplace, 1861-1876

The political rift between northern and southern postwar editorial coverage

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

The Fateful Lightning is the second volume of Kathleen Diffley’s trilogy on Civil War magazine fiction. While her first book of the trilogy, Where My Heart Is Turning Ever, charted the role of magazine fiction from the Northeast in “grounding the rites of citizenship” following the end of the Civil War, The Fateful Lightning traces the sectional conflicts in a postwar nation and how region shaped the political agendas of these postwar editorials.

Diffley argues that the journals she examines present stories that give unpredictable results of sectional conflict and commemorate the Civil War differently from the northeastern publishing establishments. She weaves this argument through her analysis of four literary journals: Baltimore’s Southern Magazine, Charlotte’s The Land We Love, Chicago’s Lakeside Monthly, and San Francisco’s Overland Monthly. Diffley uses a method of literary analysis that looks at what is not only present in the text but also present throughout its historically informed context, gleaning cultural meanings from what the stories also filter out. Coupling this literary analysis with city studies, Diffley’s innovative approach demonstrates how these editorials offer varying gauges of continued political unrest, rising social opportunity, and conflicting commemorative investments as Reconstruction began to unfold.

The Fateful Lightning will be essential for any scholar of Civil War and Reconstruction literature or nineteenth-century American print culture. . . . It offers a valuable model for literary history, combining close and 'distant' reading with thorough historical contextualization.

—Timothy Sweet, editor of Literary Cultures of the Civil War

The cultural complexity presented here makes The Fateful Lightning a must-read for those who want to understand why war literature reflected regional place-making throughout the era of Reconstruction. It is beautifully written and strategically illustrated, providing nuanced readings of stories that readers will be thrilled to discover.

—Jane E. Schultz, editor of This Birth Place of Souls: The Diary of Harriet Eaton

The Fateful Lightning offers additional proof that the US Civil War produced some fascinating literary outpourings and demonstrates that periodicals outside of New England offered readers interesting visions and divergent narratives about the United States. It will appeal to anyone interested in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century, literary history, and commemoration.

—Evan C. Rothera, H-Net Reviews

Diffley’s work continues to make vital contributions to our understanding of Civil War literature.

—Cynthia Patterson, Journal of Southern History

By taking an enhanced look into the wider realm of Civil War- and Reconstruction Era-era historical scholarship, Diffley delves into how the nation's competing immediate wartime memories evolved before Reconstruction ended.

—Catherine V. Bateson, The Journal of the Civil War

About the Author/Editor

KATHLEEN DIFFLEY is an associate professor of English at the University of Iowa and director of the Civil War Caucus at the M/MLA. She is the author of Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861–1876 and the coeditor of Visions of Glory: The Civil War in Word and Image (both Georgia). She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.