Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America Paperback – 18 Jan 2013
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You can always count on David Reynolds to surprise and delight, and in his latest work, he does not disappoint. This time, he sets his sights on the far-ranging and fascinating impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's mammoth bestseller, Uncle Tom's Cabin. In Reynolds s gifted hands, Mightier Than The Sword is nothing less than an intellectual feast. Bravo for yet another superb book.--Jay Winik, author of "April 1865" and "The Great Upheaval"
With his masterful biographies of John Brown and Walt Whitman, David Reynolds joined the ranks of the great historians of nineteenth-century America but with Mightier than the Sword Reynolds has written his best book yet. Deeply researched and compulsively readable, Mightier the Sword is both the definitive account of the strange but true career of Uncle Tom s Cabin and a sweeping two-hundred year history of race in America. Compact, clear, and packed with astonishing facts and provocative insights, this book will fascinate everyone from the general reader to the professional historian.--Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize winner for "The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher"
Reynolds is a virtuoso writer A fitting tribute to the 200th anniversary of Harriet Beecher Stowe s birth.--Mike Harvkey
Starred Review: A provocative overview of the life and afterlife of one of American literature s most important texts .A sharp work of cross-disciplinary criticism that gives new power to a diminished novel. Reynolds successfully repositions the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe as a major political work, crucial not just to the abolitionist movement, but as kindling for the Civil War and an important inspiration to the cultural discussions of race relations through most of the 20th century
Bravura work .Reynolds has given us another cultural history of assured mastery, a history that combines deep erudition, lightly worn, with a lively and readable style.
Insightful, .informative, .rewarding.
A wonderful history of what may justly be considered America s national epic.--Joan Hedrick, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life"
Fascinating a lively and perceptive cultural history.--The New Yorker
Consistently enlightening Mightier Than the Sword deftly explores the social-intellectual context and personal experience out of which Stowe s novel evolved into a grand entertainment and a titanic engine of change.
A subtle and splendid history of the novel s effect on American culture.
Deeply researched and compulsively readable Both the definitive account of the strange but true career of Uncle Tom s Cabin and a sweeping two-hundred year history of race in America.--Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher"
A splendid and subtle history. --Fergus M. Bordewich"
Consistently enlightening. . . . Mightier than the Sword deftly explores the social-intellectual context and personal experience out of which Stowe s novel evolved into a grand entertainment and a titanic engine of change. --Dan Cryer"
A splendid and subtle history.--Fergus M. Bordewich
Reynolds has given us another cultural history of assured mastery, a history that combines deep erudition, lightly worn, with a lively and readable style.--Tim Redman
About the Author
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography; John Brown, Abolitionist; Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville; Mightier Than the Sword: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the Battle for America; Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson; Walt Whitman; George Lippard; and Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America. Reynolds is the editor or coeditor of seven books, including Whitman's Leaves of Grass: The 150th Anniversary Edition, A Historical Guide to Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Splendid Edition, and George Lippard's The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall. He is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Christian Gauss Award, the Ambassador Book Award, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Prize and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Nevertheless, as the Times pointed out: "If ever there was a publishing event to prove the principle that timing is everything, Uncle Tom's Cabin was it. On both sides of the sectional divide the timber was dry--and Stowe struck the igniting spark. In the North, Frederick Douglass rejoiced that she had `baptized with holy fire myriads who before cared nothing for the bleeding slave.'"
That's why I'm giving American Studies scholar David S. Reynolds' new book 5 stars. This is more than an individual book of history. It's part of the dramatic rewriting of what Americans thought we knew about the Civil War era and its long legacy. There are countless examples involving all aspects of that turbulent era--but, simply within the realm of racial politics, a great deal is changing in our assumptions about the Civil War's legacy. One example is the work of historian David Blight in a book like Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, where he completely overturns our previous nostalgic memories of Memorial Day. A second example, further along in that legacy, is Daniel L. Buttry's new book Blessed Are The Peacemakers, which includes a series of fresh profiles of Freedom Riders that helps to rewrite our assumptions about their origins and training as nonviolent activists in the South. This vital area of American history and culture is starting to look quite different in today's college classrooms.
In his new book, Reynolds invites readers to turn their assumptions on end about Uncle Tom's Cabin and Stowe's influence on our history. I've been a journalist covering issues of culture and diversity for more than 30 years--but as a Baby Boomer who majored in literature and writing in the early 1970s, no professor even suggested we should read Uncle Tom's Cabin. Now, we recognize that this best-selling 19th-century melodrama ranks with Dickens and even surpasses Dickens' ability to spark real change in the world.
You'll enjoy this book, including its sprinkling of illustrations. It's great for group discussion, and at only 273 pages in the main text, you'll find that even the slower readers in your group will finish this book quickly. They'll come to your discussion circle with lots to talk about!
The writing is engaging and clear; there is alot of material for students looking for good research avenues as well as general readers looking for a detailed portrait of American popular culture in the 19th century. Stowe's UTC is unique in American letters and Reynold's to his credit, never lets that out of his sight.
This is an impressive study of the role "Uncle Tom's Cabin" played, and continues to play, in American literature and race relations.
"Mightier Than the Sword" starts quietly with a look at how Harriet Beecher Stowe accumulated the material for this novel, speculation on whom the characters were based upon, and a heavy dose of the standard commentary about Stowe's impact on the abolition movement and the American Civil War.
The second part of the book rises to a crescendo, examining the almost accidental marketing of the book through multiple pirated reprintings, theatre productions, movie productions, and an astounding seventy-seven years of world-wide popularity.
We learn that highly-educated 19th century Blacks like W.E.B. duBois, Frederick Douglas and James Weldon Johnson, praised Harriet Beecher-Stowe's efforts at consciousness-raising.
The denouement looks at the backlash of the 1960's, when patience with Victorian story telling was very limited. Uncle Tom's gentle strength was no longer in fashion and his name became used as an epithet.
Reynolds winds up his study by noting that 21st century opinion is moving towards an appreciation of the contributions of talented Americans once labeled "Uncle Toms," including Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
"Mightier Than The Sword" is carefully researched and well-thought-out. The book provides superb reading and discussion material for book clubs, church groups, college-level Sociology, Pop-Culture, and History students.
The moral of this tale is that the cultural and social norms of each generation of readers influences that generation's perceptions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." One hundred and sixty years after it was first published, it remains an important American milestone. No matter how much praise or how much scorn is heaped upon the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is still read and still taken seriously.