Pet Book Report #9: The Civil War in Song and Story

This week I’d like to revisit the idea of the anthology as a kind of scrapbook. I’ve previously talked about the different relationships each had with issues of curation, objectivity, and duplication and how each of these elements affect the functions of scrapbooks and anthologies as genres and how they relate to each other. I’d like now to talk about how the different media lend themselves to different conceptions and roles of authorship and its political implications.

If the difference between scrapbooks and newspapers was that the former was private and the latter was public, the way in which Moore’s anthology, as a scrapbook created for mass distribution and public consumption, managed to puncture these distinctions foregrounds a particular kind of privilege which Moore possessed. Garvey writes that scrapbooking was open to “men and women from all classes and backgrounds, and with surprisingly diverse educations” (Garvey 10). What qualifies Moore for access to a wide landscape of news from which he can make curatorial choices, and his narrative to a wide national audience, not only in terms of his Civil War anthologies, but in cases like his 1856 Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution and his 1865 Speeches of Andrew Johnson? His education? His intimacy with existing forms of power and his industry contacts? Though the medium itself makes fewer demands of the varyingly literate and thus is in that sense more democratic, The Civil War in Song and Story/ is in this way for me evidence of how power hierarchies are reinscribed in the preservation and distribution of even the most egalitarian of literary forms, beyond the examples Garvey gives of only the well-documented being documented (24).

And because Moore’s work straddles the difference between writing for the public and writing for private remembrance, it’s intimately connected to narrative. How Moore develops this narrative is thus an object of intense interest for me. I see similarities between The Civil War in Song and Story and the idea of publishing houses creating clean, well-designed versions of scrapbooks collecting a popular author’s work with the understanding there would be a desire and market for it, but publishers made these decisions on information which was–mostly–divorced from their own tastes: numbers of exchange. In all of my research, I still haven’t been able to determine how Moore selected pieces for the Rebellion Record beyond the vague shape of continual whittling down of content as Moore’s work moved through each of its iterations. Did he specifically seek out pieces that had been reprinted over and over again for their popularity, or did he erase the division between the exchange-man “reflect[ing] public opinion” or creating public opinion (Garvey 31)?

This task is further complicated by Moore’s habit of stripping attributions present even in the Rebellion Record, which I’ve discussed before in reference to my close reading of the anecdote “A CURIOUS INCIDENT.” The Civil War in Song and Story, though, is full of varying levels of information about provenance and past publication. The anecdote “A CHALLENGE” was originally reprinted in Vol. 2 of the Rebellion Record, but not only has information about the passenger who brought the information described in the article been stripped out, much like the rewritten introduction which prefaces “A CURIOUS INCIDENT,” but abbreviations like “idem” (which indicated in the Rebellion Record and, presumably, the newspaper it was originally clipped from) that also point to bibliographic details have also been removed (Moore 160). At times Moore would preserve the author’s name, particularly the bylines of prominent authors, but he would go out of his way to remove newspaper names, in a reversal of Garvey’s point that “Newspapers had an institutional stake in promoting their own names…rather than highlighting the names of…authors” (36).

If anonymity and its concomitant “filling-in process” served an authorial function, as Garvey suggests, perhaps Moore’s refusal to color the anecdotes reprinted in The Civil War in Song and Story, anonymous but for the way in which they might represent a particular periodical’s point of view, with the name of a newspaper or place of original publication does the same work of universalizing the content in the same way that narratives of anonymity did for items circulated through newspaper exchanges, but through the opposite mechanism. Periodicals which removed the author’s name from the material it retrieves from its exchanges wrote narratives about “‘a soldier dying in the hospital at Port Royal'” or “an unnamed Cincinnati prostitute” encouraged readers to build their own identification and sympathies with the anonymous writer (Garvey 41; Cordell and Mullen). In contrast, Moore discards the periodicals’ names from his reprinted material, discouraging identification between the reader and the paratext of the article and implying that there exists a pristine, original meaning intended by the author which exists independently of the reader. Both of these, though they articulate different positions on the relationship between meaning and the reader, paradoxically both do the work of decontextualizing their subject matter and making it more widely accessible. Garvey points out that even pseudonymous writers found ways to limit the identification readers could experience, as when a poet signed her name “Georgia” in a strategic act of alienation of particular regions and readers. Did Moore do the same in his creation of the third-person “Editor,” which he references in the preface as having received daily letters in his New York office asking for a reprint of Anecdotes, poetry, and incidents–is this a way of forming a particular identity for both himself and his narrative through exclusion and inclusion?

A question I’d be interested in would be whether any of Moore’s material found its way from the pages of a printed book into a scrapbook, signaling how readers and scrapbook-makers might’ve rejected the underlying logic of curation.

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