John Howell

(Religion and Literature) “Civil War Literature and the Prospect of America”

I'm grateful to the Martin Marty Center for the opportunity to work, under its auspices, toward the completion of my dissertation project. My dissertation proposes a renegotiation of the generic epithet, 'Civil War literature,' in the light of recent historical scholarship, which upsets the reflexive conclusion that the close of the Civil War is the moment of American civil religion's completion or perfection. I argue that we ought reconsider previously undervalued works of late-nineteenth century literature that engage the Civil War obliquely or fragmentarily because they highlight the war's disjunctive or disordering force. During my time as a Junior Fellow, I will be completing a chapter on postwar realism and writing what will be the concluding chapter in my project, which concerns the relationship of the discourse on 'Civil War literature' to the inattention, in American religious historical narratives, to the ways in which the war potentially collapses the prospect of a cogent national faith.

My project attempts to engage a somewhat wide array of scholarly publics (e.g. American Studies, American Religious History, Civil War History, Religion and Literature), so I foresee the Marty Center's interdisciplinary environment as a great resource for such work. That is to say that, given the exigencies and potential perils of multidisciplinary speech, I look forward to the opportunity to present my research amongst the Marty Center's Fellows, whose diverse professional commitments and expertise will, no doubt, prove invaluable--because it will interrogate, chasten, and embolden--as I complete the project.