Jonathan's Reviews > Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America's Culture of Death

Awaiting the Heavenly Country by Mark S. Schantz
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's review
Feb 25, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: history
Recommended to Jonathan by: The New Yorker
Read in June, 2008

This is a fascinating look at the ways Americans viewed death in the years leading up to the Civil War. Schantz's prose is quite clear, and with a few exceptions (I'm all for academic rigor, but do we really need that many examples of similar 19th century diary entries?) this is an engaging read. The last chapter, which examines the ways that the era's media (lithographs, paintings, photography) both informed and were informed by America's culture of death, is particularly interesting.

While Schantz's writing is even keeled and balanced, this is something of a shocking book. If his arguments are correct, 19th century American culture was alien and bizarre when viewed through the lens of modern society. Schantz urges us to resist the temptation to believe 1860s Americans were "just like us" and to accept that they were possibly very different.
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message 1: by Karen (last edited Aug 03, 2008 05:28AM) (new) - added it

Karen This book sounds thematically similar to The Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust. I wonder if anyone has read both and could comment on the differences between the two books.

Jonathan I haven't had a chance to read Faust's book, but I first heard about Schantz's through this New Yorker review which discusses both books.

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