Vermont Humanities Annual Fall Conference

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Vermont Humanities Annual Fall Conference

Lincoln Statue, Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC by YortwA Fire Never Extinguished
How the Civil War Continues to
Shape Civic and Cultural Life in America
November 14–15, Dudley Davis Center, University of Vermont

The Civil War casts a long shadow in the United States. As Robert Penn Warren put it in his classic 1961 book, The Legacy of the Civil War, “many clear and objective facts about America are best understood in reference to the Civil War.”  VHC’s 2014 fall conference, presented in collaboration with the Vermont Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, explores the influence that the War had and continues to have on literature, visual art, race, memory, and politics. The conference, taking place five months before the end of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, will seek to identify lessons vital to American democracy that still can be learned from the War and its aftermath.

Conference Schedule

Friday, November 14

2:00 pm — Registration desk open

3:00 pm – 4:15 pm — Breakout sessions

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm — Reception at the Fleming Museum on the UVM campus
Reception generously hosted by the Fleming Museum and the Friends of Special Collections

6:15 pm – 7:30 pm — Dinner, optional, reservations required

7:30 pm – 8:45 pm — The Civil War in American Memory at 150: Legacies in Our Own Time. No event has left a deeper impression on America’s collective memory than the Civil War. Amidst the War’s 150th anniversary, Yale professor David Blight examines the changing nature of Civil War memory and considers how it continues to shape the country’s identity, debates, and sense of purpose.

Saturday, Novem​ber 15

7:15 am – 8:30 am — Registration desk open and continental breakfast

8:30 am – 9:00 am — Welcome.  Peter Gilbert, VHC executive director; Major Jackson, VHC board chair; presentation of 2014 Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award. 

9:00 am – 10:15 am — Cultivating Civility and Accounting For Race: American Culture in the Aftermath of The War Between the States. The Civil War, a deadly and costly enterprise that affected so many in the nation, was shaped by the competing forces of honor and dishonor, memory and forgetting, freedom and enslavement. Wesleyan University’s Lois Brown explores these competing forces by asking several questions. What do these striking oppositions reveal about the ways in which the war was won and lost? How are our twenty-first century experiences and accounts of race and culture still informed, undone, and reconfigured by these volatile legacies of loss and acquisition, and victory and defeat?

10:15 am – 10:30 am — Break with coffee and tea

10:30 am – 11:45 am — Breakout sessions

Noon – 1:00 pm — Buffet lunch

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm — The Civil War and the Transformation of American Culture and Literature. The Civil War was the most transforming event in American culture. Its memories continue to haunt and inspire people; the nation in certain respects is still fighting it; and it is impossible to imagine what the United States would look like today had it never happened. Harvard’s John Stauffer discusses three crucial aspects of this transformation — the displacement of God as a causal force in society, the masculinization of society, and the “whitening” of society — while also explaining continuities from the antebellum era, prompting “culture wars” that persist today.

2:15 pm – 2:30 pm — Break with coffee and tea

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm — Breakout sessions

3:45 pm – 4:00 pm — Break with beverages

4:00 pm – 5:15 pm — How the Civil War Still Matters to American Art. Smithsonian curator Eleanor Jones Harvey considers the legacy of the Civil War in American art, examining recent work by contemporary artists Sally Mann, Dario Robleto, Terry Adkins, and William Dunlap — each of whom have addressed aspects of the Civil War as a means of exploring memory, loss, recovery, and death as conditions of the human experience.