Monday, August 30, 2010

Joan Waugh

Joan Waugh is professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles.

From her Q & A about her book, U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth:

Q: Why is reviving the image of Ulysses S. Grant as a great American hero so important?

A: I see my book as not "reviving" but "recovering" or even "rediscovering" his image and reputation. I think it's important because people cannot really appreciate the enormous impact of the Civil War if they forget about or dismiss the meaning behind its symbols and heroes, such as U. S. Grant. He embodied the Union cause for Americans of his day -- why the United States fought to preserve the country -- more than any living person of the time.

Q: Tell us about why you divide the book into two parts, first considering Grant's life and his status as an "American Hero" and then examining him as an "American Myth."

A: That's such a good question, and to tell you the truth, I struggled with the organization of the book in terms of how much to write about his life. In the beginning of my project, I assumed that everyone knew about Grant's role in the Civil War and as president (whether they liked him or not), but after researching the topic for a few years, I realized that many of my potential readers might need to be educated about the scale of his accomplishments and achievements. That is why the first chapters of the book highlight his ascent into heroic status while the remaining chapters chronicle the mythic general.

Q: In his day, Grant was considered a hero comparable to the likes of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Why was Grant so popular in the nineteenth century? What did he represent to the American people?

A: Most Americans held a high regard for the man who, with Lincoln, preserved and sustained the United States. In my book I make clear that white southerners...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue