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Enhancing The Humanities At Bowdoin

The Civil War Era

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard (Bowdoin Class of 1850)

There are few places better than Bowdoin College to study the American Civil War (1861-1865).  There is a saying that the war started and ended in Brunswick, Maine.  For some, the war started not in 1861 with the attack on Fort Sumter but with Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which she wrote on Federal Street. Bowdoin College Professor and President, General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain accepted the final surrender of the Confederate infantry at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865. Students who engage in Bowdoin’s Civil War cluster have the unique opportunity to explore this critical period in United States history through a range of disciplinary lenses with a focus on the people and places that helped to shape it.  History courses seek to interpret the meaning of the events surrounding the war, including its causes and consequences.  Courses in literature explore how American literature shaped Civil War history.  And studies in Art History focus on “reading” the material, artistic, and photographic evidence of the war.  Students engaged in Africana Studies will also find much of interest in this cluster of courses.  At each point, our concern is not simply with learning about the Civil War, but acquiring the skills necessary to work across these important disciplines.

Course Offerings

Fall 2013

  • Hist/AS 1025: The Civil War in Film (Rael)
  • Eng/AS 1026: Fictions of Freedom (Chakkalakal)

Spring 2014

  • Hist/AS 3140: Research Seminar in Nineteenth-Century American History (Rael)
  • Eng/AS 2584 Intermediate Seminar: The Afterlives of Uncle Tom (Chakkalakal and Coviello)
  • AFRS/ENG 2405 – Nineteenth Century American Fiction (Chakkalakal)
  • ARTHS 3600 - upper-level seminar: Race and Visual Representation (Byrd)

Fall 2014

  • Hist/AS 1241: The Civil War Era (Rael)
  • Hist/AS 2623: Antislavery (Rael)
  • Eng/AS 2583: Literature of the Civil War Era (Chakkalakal)

Spring 2015

  • Hist/AS 2621: Reconstruction (Rael)
  • Eng/AS 2580: Reconstructing the Nation (Chakkalakal)

Fall 2015

  • Hist 1016/AS 1025: The Civil War in Film (Rael)
  • Eng/AS 2581: Literature of Jim Crow (Chakkalakal)

Spring 2016

  • Hist/AS 3140: Research Seminar in Nineteenth-Century American History (Rael)
  • Eng/AS XX: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Chakkalakal) 

 Image: Gen. Oliver Otis Howard (Bowdoin Class of 1850)

Participating Faculty & Staff

Student Projects
  • Nancy Walker"The Horatio Smith Project" an Independent Study by Nancy E. Walker ’15, Co-directed by Tess Chakkalakal and Richard Lindemann – Transcribing the diary and letters of a Bowdoin student who first attempted to form a student regiment and later left school to serve in the Union army.

Civil War Blog

Events for 2013-14
  • Was Uncle Tom From South Carolina? - Susanna Ashton, Clemson UniversityFeb. 10, 5:30 pm, Mass Hall Faculty Room
  • Charles Dickens Reads Stowe - Laura Korobkin, Boston UniversityMar. 3, 5:30 pm, Mass Hall Faculty Room
  • Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War - Robert Levine, University of MarylandApril 3, 7:00pm, Lancaster Lounge
  • Bowdoin's O. O. Howard Papers Provide Window into the Civil War - August 8-11, 2013
  • The Mighty Scourge of War - Bowdoin College Museum of Art - August 8, 2013 - January 8, 2014
  • American Political Economy From the Age of Jackson to the Civil War - Economics Symposium - October 19-20, 2013
  • Visualizing Uncle Tom - Exhibition January 27-May 24, 2014- Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, 2nd floor
    Visualizing Uncle Tom
    Having written Uncle Tom's Cabin during her time in Brunswick, Maine, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel became an instant international bestseller. This exhibition draws upon the private holdings of Professor Richard Ellis (University of Birmingham) and the Bowdoin College Library's Stowe Collection. The exhibit features various illustrations from the novel's multiple editions published between 1852 and 1960, with a focus on the differences between the novel's American and British illustrators.