The National Mall in Washington, DC, includes a landscape of monuments testifying to the indivisibility of war from the emblems and abstractions that have helped to shape many cherished fictions of nationhood. The history of that nationhood is not limited to its military history, but any history of the nation without its military history is incomplete. This goes for literary histories of the United States as well. Wars have offered students of American literature convenient boundaries for literary periods, as the divisions in many anthologies show. Using wars to mark off boundaries in literary history reflects an ambivalence characteristic of much literary scholarship. On the one hand, wars are seismic events of considerable magnitude, and they have social, political, and economic causes and consequences it would be irresponsible to overlook. On the other, literary scholars do their work in settings that depend...

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