For their third book project, lecturers Peg Lamphier and Roseanne Welch, in the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education, decided to write a book examining the American film industry’s depiction of the American Civil War. In their book, “The Civil War on Film,” the authors contend that American films are filled with mythologies and ideologies surrounding the experience of the war and further research is required to uncover the full, real history.
According to the authors, the Civil War, which occurred from 1861-1865, is contested ground both among historians and the general public. They argue that most are clear about the anti-slavery aims of the war, as well as the fundamentally treasonous nature of succession, but neo-Confederates cast the war in terms favorable to their white supremacist agenda.
In a joint statement, Lamphier and Welch wrote, “Our book is entirely unsympathetic to the Neo-Con/Lost Cause agenda and so we’re engaged in a vigorous refutation of a number of pro-Confederate myths that serve to hamper racial equality in modern America. We hope readers will better understand the nature of the war and the troubled way it’s been filmed as they work through our book. We also hope it shows readers that films always engage in a bit of fictionalization in order to heighten the drama.”
“The Civil War on Film” examines ten films across ten chapters. Some of these films include “Gone with the Wind,” which premiered in 1939 and “Glory,” which debuted in 1989.
One of the arguments presented in the book include the Confederate monuments controversy, which is an ongoing national argument about the Civil War and a target of the current racial justice movement.
“The thing about Civil War movies is they often erase the real cause of the Civil War, slavery, and the very real outcome of the war, which was the end of slavery,” said Lamphier and Welch. “If all Americans could understand that Confederates were not ‘good men who lost,’ but rebels engaged in a massive act of deadly treason against the United States, and that the war was fought to end slavery, then perhaps we could abandon once and for all this notion that there is something noble and admirable about the Confederacy. There is not. They fought to preserve human bondage. That should be morally revolting to all twenty-first century Americans and the fact that it is not is a testament to how far we still have to go to heal the wounds of our nation’s history of slavery.”
In addition to this book, Lamphier and Welch also plan to release a second book in this series called “American Women in Film.” The book will examine movies about women, from the Suffragettes to Anita Hill, a lawyer and educator who fought for sexual harassment to be recognized. The book is expected to come out in 2021.
Lamphier and Welch have published several books independently and collectively including “Women in American History” and “Technical Innovation in American History.” They teach courses in the IGE Program, which offers a unique approach to satisfying general education requirements at Cal Poly Pomona. In IGE, students do not complete tests or quizzes to demonstrate knowledge but instead they engage in class discussion and group projects.
Lamphier teaches several sections of IGE 3300: Demons, The Undead, and the Monstrous Other and one section of IGE 3200: Visions of Science and Technology. Welch teaches a few sections of IGE 3300 and a section of IGE 3600: UFOs, Illuminati, and Other Conspiracy Theories.
For more information about IGE, visit www.cpp.edu/ceis/interdisciplinary-general-education/. For more information about the authors, visit their websites at www.peglamphier.com and https://rosannewelch.com.