Cover image for Lincoln's body : a cultural history
Title:
Lincoln's body : a cultural history
Author:
Fox, Richard Wightman, 1945-
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Physical Description:
xvi, 416 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
Lincoln's Body explores how a president ungainly in body and downright "ugly" of aspect came to mean so much to us.The very roughness of Lincoln's appearance made him seem all the more common, one of us--as did his sense of humor about his own awkward physical nature.
Language:
English
Contents:
Part I. The public body (1840-1865) -- Lincoln's body politic -- Last words, last breath -- The martyr and his relics -- African Americans and their emancipator -- Rolling funeral, living corpse -- Part II. The enshrined body (1865-1909) -- The first Lincoln memorials -- Monuments for the ages -- Black emancipation, White reunion -- Celebrating the Centenary of 1909 -- Part III. The national body (1909-2015) -- Solidifying the Lincoln cult: two memorials -- The hero on screen, from Griffith to Gage -- Standing in Lincoln's shadow -- Reviving the emancipator -- Lincoln sightings at the bicentenary: Obama, Disney, Spielberg.
ISBN:
9780393065305
Format :
Book

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Central Library E457.2 .F773 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Clarence Library E457.2 .F773 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Kenmore Library E457.2 .F773 2015 Adult Non-Fiction New Materials
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library E457.2 .F773 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

In a stunning feat of scholarship, insight, and engaging prose, Lincoln's Body explores how a president ungainly in body and downright "ugly" of aspect came to mean so much to us.

The very roughness of Lincoln's appearance made him seem all the more common, one of us--as did his sense of humor about his own awkward physical nature. Nineteenth-century African Americans felt deep affection for their "liberator" as a "homely" man who did not hold himself apart. During Reconstruction, Southerners felt a nostalgia for the humility of Lincoln, whom they envisioned as a "conciliator." Later, teachers glorified Lincoln as a symbol of nationhood that would appeal to poor immigrants. Monument makers focused not only on the man's gigantic body but also on his nationalist efforts to save the Union, downplaying his emancipation of the slaves.

Among both black and white liberals in the 1960s and 1970s, Lincoln was derided or fell out of fashion. More recently, Lincoln has once again been embodied (as both idealist and pragmatist, unafraid of conflict and transcending it) by outstanding historians, by self-identified Lincolnian president Barack Obama, and by actor Daniel Day-Lewis--all keeping Lincoln alive in a body of memory that speaks volumes about our nation.


Author Notes

Richard Wightman Fox is a professor of history at the University of Southern California and the author of Jesus in America and Trials of Intimacy, among other books. He lives in Venice, California.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

So many books have been written about America's 16th president that most re-tread familiar territory, yet historian Fox (Jesus in America) has struck gold with this unusual, finely crafted study. Proceeding from the assumption that Americans still love and revere Lincoln, Fox argues that the reasons underlying those feelings are rooted in the president's physique. Though many found him physically unattractive, Lincoln's body was claimed as a "symbol of republican simplicity and American self-making" by the American public while he was alive. That body took on new importance in death, elevating the assassinated president to martyrdom, and Fox provides riveting analysis of Lincoln's funeral and the nation's mourning. The final third of the book switches to the ways Lincoln has been remembered through the 21st century. Two television mini-series dedicated to him aired in the 1970s and 1980s, and for decades Disneyland featured a "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" exhibit. Hollywood produced its first Lincoln movie in 1930 and produced two more as recently 2012: one a prestigious Steven Spielberg biopic, the other a depiction of Lincoln as a superhero vampire hunter-making him a handsome leading man at last. Illus. Agent: Jill Kneerim; Kneerim, Williams & Bloom (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Fox (history, Univ. of Southern California Dornsife; Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography) offers a penetrating exposition of the hold that Abraham Lincoln still has on American history, our minds, and perhaps our future. What the author does in such a compelling and insightful manner is examine how Lincoln-considered by so many of his contemporaries (friend and foe alike) as "ugly," "ungainly," and beyond "homely"-becomes our emancipator, our liberator, our martyr, and, eventually (and most fundamentally) our symbol of nationhood. At the hands of Fox, we see Lincoln remembered and mostly revered (albeit at times reviled) in print, in memorial, in song, in statue, and in plays and films as the substantive, symbolic figure about whom proper understanding and appreciation is so crucial for defining where we've been, who we are, and where we're headed. The quest for making sense of Lincoln is not quixotic; it's a search for understanding ourselves, whether the issue is slavery or immigration. Fox convincingly asserts that Lincoln's physicality, personality, private thoughts, and public rhetoric confront each generation with the daunting task of remembering Lincoln and renewing democracy. VERDICT Any student of Lincoln will find this a compelling read that enhances scholarship on the president.-Stephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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