John Brown's Body
Slavery, Violence, and the Culture of War
Revisiting the culture of the Civil War, Franny Nudelman analyzes the idealization of mass death and explores alternative ways of depicting the violence of war. Considering martyred soldiers in relation to suffering slaves, she argues that responses to wartime death cannot be fully understood without attention to the brutality directed against African Americans during the antebellum era.
Throughout, Nudelman focuses not only on representations of the dead but also on practical methods for handling, studying, and commemorating corpses. She narrates heated conflicts over the political significance of the dead: whether in the anatomy classroom or the Army Medical Museum, at the military scaffold or the national cemetery, the corpse was prized as a source of authority. Integrating the study of death, oppression, and war, John Brown's Body makes an important contribution to a growing body of scholarship that meditates on the relationship between violence and culture.