The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 689
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2002 Book Reviews 689
student of Texas history and of the exploration and attempted settlement of what
became the United States.
Louisiana State Unzversity, Baton Rouge Paul E. Hoffman
The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-z880s. By Bertram
Wyatt-Brown. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001oo. Pp.
ix+412. Preface, appendix, notes, acknowledgments, index. ISBN 0-8078-
2596-4. $55.00, cloth.)
Bertram Wyatt-Brown significantly enhanced our understanding of pre-Civil
War white southern culture with his widely acclaimed 1982 book Southern Honor:
Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. Yet, despite that earlier success, he now feels
compelled to "rectify" (p. xvi) some omissions in Southern Honorby adding politics
and religion to his interpretation, and expanding the chronological scope of his
analysis through the 188os. Five of the twelve nicely crafted thematic chapters in
this new book are revisions of previously published essays, but there is a freshness
about the whole that makes for compelling reading. Two chapters deal specifical-
ly with political features of honor, four others explore antebellum religion, and
five probe the role of honor during and after the Civil War.
Wyatt-Brown is wise to add religion to his discussion of southern culture. How-
ever, his expanded agenda has also obliged him to reformulate old concepts.
Most notably, he has introduced grace-defined as the human capacity for mercy
and forgiveness-as the "sacred element" of honor (p. xii). This useful tool allows
him to explore the impact of religion and to engage in a wide-ranging discussion
of the effects of the war on the southern psyche. The results do, in fact, strength-
en his earlier interpretations, and like all of Wyatt-Brown's published work, his ef-
forts evidence a sharp intellect, considered judgments, and an impressive
knowledge of the scholarship in both his own and related fields.
Yet, like Southern Honor, this book, too, will inspire debate, for the author has
left himself open to some quite reasonable challenges. Wyatt-Brown's seamless
and monolithic South only partially suggests the region's diversity of geography,
social class, and occupation. He alludes to the existence of such differences, most
notably of class, but he offers no systematic or rigorous analysis of them within the
context of honor or grace. Similarly, it is difficult to detect changes in southern
perceptions of honor over time, and readers of this journal will be disappointed
to learn that the author's analysis seldom roams west of the Mississippi River.
While honor and grace are admittedly important for understanding southern
behavior, Wyatt-Brown's use of these terms can also be frustrating. In some in-
stances, especially in his chapters on the war and its aftermath, he employs them
in fits and starts. At other times, he applies them so broadly that they lose much of
their intellectual punch. On still other occasions, he defines his terms with addi-
tional concepts-shame, vengeance, magnanimity, conscience, guilt, dignity-
that are themselves vague, with meanings more implied than explored. It is
difficult enough in the realm of intellectual history to trace the influence of a sin-
gle concept on concrete actions, but that task increases in difficulty as definitions
become multilayered and ever more broadly applied. How satisfactorily Wyatt-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/745/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.