In the week since the Storming of the Capitol and the temporary disruption of the electoral process by President Trump’s supporters, a crucial, but habitually ignored period in U.S. history has burst into popular discourse.
Brook Thomas has been advocating for a long time that we pay closer attention to Reconstruction, in all its messiness. He joins Matt Seybold on The American Vandal Podcast to discuss both the importance of an accurate and informed reckoning with the unfinished business of Reconstruction for understanding our contemporary moment, and how misinformation and myths associated with Reconstruction have so far prevented that reckoning.
Brook Thomas is Chancellor’s Professor of English at University of California, Irvine. The Literature of Reconstruction (Johns Hopkins UP, 2017) is his sixth book. He has also authored three foundational works in the subfield of Law & Literature: Civic Myths (U. North Carolina P., 2007), American Literary Realism & The Failed Promise of Contract (U. California P., 1997), and Cross-Examinations of Law & Literature (Cambridge UP, 1987). He is also editor of Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford, 1997), the definitive resource on the landmark Supreme Court decision.
During the podcast, Seybold also alludes to two recent articles: “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & Reconstruction” (American Literary Realism, Fall 2017) and “Reconstruction & World War I” (American Literary History, Fall 2018). Below you can find a more extensive works cited drawn from the episode.
David Blight, “The Reconstruction of America” (Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2021)
Isaac Chotiner, “Learning From The Failure of Reconstruction” (New Yorker, Jan. 2021)
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (2011)
Thomas Geoghegan, “Trump Could Be Sued For Damages Under the Federal Ku Klux Klan Act” (Washington Post, Jan. 2021)
Christopher Hager & Cody Marrs, “Against 1865: Reperiodizing The Nineteenth Century” (J19, Fall 2013)
Joel Chandler Harris, “Free Joe & The Rest of The World” (The Century, Nov. 1884)
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (1956)
Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (1967)
Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth” (Journal of American Folklore, 1955)
Jon Meacham, “Andrew Johnson” in Impeachment: An American History (2018)
Rebecca Onion, “Reconstruction Offers No Easy Answers For How To Handle The Trump Insurgency” (Slate, Jan. 2021)
Cass R. Sunstein, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide (2017)
Albion W. Tourgee, A Fool’s Errand (1879)
—–, Bricks Without Straw (1880)
—–, ’89 (1891)
Laurence Tribe, The End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment (2018)
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
—–, “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” (The Century, Dec. 1885)
Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age (1873)
Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (1961)