Why don’t Americans drive around in cars emblazoned with battle streamers from the War of 1812? Or dress up as soldiers to reenact battles from the Spanish-American War? What is it about the Civil War that is still so compelling to Americans that it prompts many to care passionately about its symbols, its moments and its legacies?
Laura Free, assistant professor of history at HWS, will discuss these questions and others in the final lecture of the Geneva Historical Society fall series. “Bullets, Belles, and Bloated Bodies: The Civil War in American Popular Culture and Memory” will take place on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the Geneva Historical Society.
During the event, Free will discuss the role of returning Civil War soldiers and others in creating the popular memory of the historic conflict. She will address some of the many ways that Americans have grappled with the memory of the Civil War. In particular, she will address how Americans have used the War as fertile terrain for cultural exploration. From veterans’ parades and public statue dedications of the late 1800s, to the impassioned debates about the Confederate flag in the late 1900s and the increasingly popular battle reenactments of today, Americans have remembered the Civil War in various ways and assigned various meanings to the conflict, which have profoundly changed over time. Free will explore these diverse meanings, question why this particular moment in American history continues to fascinate and enrage Americans, and examine the complicated relationship between American history, memory and culture.
Free teaches courses in American history, the Civil War and Reconstruction and women’s history. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and is currently working on a book on gender, race and changing suffrage rights in the immediate post-Civil War years.
The Geneva Historical Society is located at 543 South Main Street. Parking is on the street or in the Trinity Episcopal Church lot across the street.