Department of Art
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
2013 to 2014
Remembering the Veteran: Disability, Trauma, and the American Civil War, 1861-1915
Abstract: Americans were unprepared for the emotional and physical turmoil following the aftermath of the Civil War. Competing theories of disease, lack of hygienic control, and poor mobile medical care left many young men as fragments of their former selves. My dissertation analyzes the ways in which American painters, illustrators and photographers responded to the trauma and violence of the American Civil War through depictions of disabled veterans. I argue that American artists, such as Alexander Gardner, Winslow Homer, and David Gilmour Blythe, projected the nation’s unresolved and overwhelming sense of loss onto the veteran’s maimed and mutilated body. More than a metaphor for the broken nation, the broken body came to represent a barometer of Americans’ attitudes toward disabled veterans. This dissertation will be the first to historicize the nineteenth-century American visual culture of war-induced disability and the symbiotic relationship between art and medicine during and after the Civil War. Read more about Erin's research while a fellow of the Consortium here.