Synopses & Reviews
For America, the mid-nineteenth century was an era of vast expectation and expansion: the country dreamed big, craved new lands, developed new technologies, and after too long a delay, finally confronted its greatest moral failure: slavery. Award-winning historian and literary critic Brenda Wineapple explores these feverish, ecstatic, conflicted years when Americans began to live within new and ever-widening borders, both spiritual and geographic; fought a devastating war over parallel ideals of freedom and justice; and transformed their country, at tragic cost, from a confederation into one nation, indivisible.
Populated by idiosyncratic, unforgettable characters such as P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, George Armstrong Custer, Horace Greeley, and Jefferson Davis, Ecstatic Nation moves from the vehement debates about slavery through the devastations of the Civil War and its aftermath. It explores the terrible complexities of Reconstruction and the fledgling hope that women would share equally in a new definition of American citizenship, and it traces the lust for land and the lure of its beauty from a frenzied rush to riches to the displacement of Indians. And it looks forward — toward the promise of a more perfect Union for all.
A masterful synthesis of political, cultural, and intellectual history, breathtaking in sweep and scope, Ecstatic Nation is a spellbinding tale of America — its glory and greed, its aspirations and humiliations — in this exhilarating and momentous period.
"This lavish record of the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War explores a divided nation through the personalities of its growing and ideologically diversifying populace. Lincoln emerges as the iconic celebrity of the era's central conflict, but the real stars are the supporting characters. Politicians, poets, slaves, slave holders, transcendentalists, Mormons, women's suffragists, and Native American chiefs are just some of the colorful characters who run the gamut from 'prolific and daring and conventional' to 'spare and iron-willed' and 'excessive and homegrown.' Acclaimed biographer Wineapple (White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) gracefully choreographs a staggering number of primary sources, weaving disparate voices together into one revelatory thread. In her depiction of the bloodshed of the Civil War, she eschews 'statistics defy comprehension,' focusing instead on specific scenes and personal stories that capture the magnitude of a pivotal moment before fleshing them out with analyses of contemporaneous reactions. The result reads like a series of biographies-in-miniature, a marvelous survey of both familiar and unsung American stories, contextualized and framed within one sweeping canvas. This is sure to enrich any reader's understanding of the complicated history of Civil War era America. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Dazzling in scope, Ecstatic Nation
illuminates one of the most dramatic and momentous chapters in America's past, when the country dreamed big, craved new lands and new freedom, and was bitterly divided over its great moral wrong: slavery.
With a canvas of extraordinary characters, such as P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and L. C. Q. Lamar, Ecstatic Nation brilliantly balances cultural and political history: It's a riveting account of the sectional conflict that preceded the Civil War, and it astutely chronicles the complex aftermath of that war and Reconstruction, including the promise that women would share in a new definition of American citizenship. It takes us from photographic surveys of the Sierra Nevadas to the discovery of gold in the South Dakota hills, and it signals the painful, thrilling birth of modern America.
An epic tale by award-winning author Brenda Wineapple, Ecstatic Nation lyrically and with true originality captures the optimism, the failures, and the tragic exuberance of a renewed Republic.
About the Author
Brenda Wineapple is the prizewinning author of several books, including White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. She teaches in the MFA programs at the New School University and Columbia University, and she is the Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Modern Literary and Historical Studies at Union College. She lives in New York City.