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Thursday, Sep 23, 2021

Lectures discuss Civil War

Dr. Michael Kreyling gave a series of three lectures at Mercer University which started on Oct. 15 and concluded on Oct. 16. The three lectures were hosted by Mercer’s Southern studies program at the Medical School Auditorium.
All three lectures were on the Civil War and are part of the Lamar Memorial Lecture Series. The first of the lectures was titled “Race, Suicide and the Civil War: Semicentennial,” the second was titled “Civil Rights and the Civil War: Centennial” and the third was titled “The Afterlife of the Civil War: Sesquicentennial.”
The first lecture in the series, focused on blood and memory. In the lecture, Dr. Keyling talked about works such as D.W. Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation” and how it portrayed race. One of the highlights of his lecture was how the film expressed the fear of whites losing superiority.
The second lecture held later in the day began with similar topics, though Dr. Keyling moved the timeframe discussion to the 1950s. One of Dr. Keyling’s main points in this lecture was how to memorialize the Civil War.
Dr. Keyling discussed the death of Albert Woolson, the last authenticated Civil War veteran in 1956. He said that the loss of the last living link to the Civil War might have implied a temporary loss of direction in how to memorialize it. Dr. Keyling emphasized the importance of remembering history saying, “We need to keep the sequence of dates and the passage of time clear.”
Dr. Keyling discussed more movies and books that focused on the Civil War such as the film “Gone with the Wind” and Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Late Encounter with the Enemy.” He drew attention to the differences between the two, saying that the “Gone with the Wind” was a ritual of regional pride and “A Late Encounter with the Enemy” is an example of those who are inclined to see fraud in Civil War memorial.
The final lecture of the series occurred on Oct. 16. Dr. Keyling focused on different ways to memorialize the Civil War.
One of the key points of the lecture was a graphic novel called “Captain Confederacy.” This novel featured a costumed superhero named Captain Confederacy who Dr. Keyling describes as a “strapping blond hunk in tights” who has a Confederate battle flag on him, and has a sidekick called Ms. Dixie.
The government in the novel makes false videos of black-on-white crime so that that Captain Confederacy and Ms. Dixie can save them.
Dr. Keyling argues that the writer of the novel has found a new way to memorialize the Civil War through retelling in an alternate history, rather than a retelling in real history. His final lecture focused on how the country has become accustomed to simulation rather than facts.
As the lecture ended, Dr. Keyling spoke of why the Civil War memorial was important. He said that the Civil War helps shape our identity as a country, that there can be no “us” without a common past. One Dr. Keyling’s final points were that one of the problems with the Civil War is that we cannot agree on what it means.
A number of Mercer students attended the lecture for various classes. One student, Kirkland Dent, said that the lectures helped him understand the South’s view of the Civil War better now.
Dent was attending the lecture for class, but he is also the Audio Video Specialist for IT and helped set up the speaker system in the Medical School Auditorium for the lecture. Dent said that there are several lectures held each semester. Students interested in attending a lecture should listen to announcements about them to get information on times and locations.


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