Lincoln's Elegy at Gettysburg
By Kent Gramm
(Indiana University Press, Hardcover, 9780253340320, 344pp.)
Publication Date: November 2001
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It begins with the search for hallowed ground, the exact place from which Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In bleak November, Kent Gramm makes a pilgrimage to the most famous battleground in American history and over the course of a month transforms his search into a discovery of the meaning of Lincoln's elegy for America's identity.
For Gramm, the century that began with Lincoln's address and ended with the assassinations of the 1960s saw the destruction of the 'modern' world and with it America's sense of purpose. The book reflects on the November anniversaries of public events such as the Armistice that ended World War One, Kristallnacht, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the death of C. S. Lewis, the first major battle of the Vietnam War, and the publication of Robert F. Kennedy's To Seek a Newer World, and also on private events in Gramm's family history, provide the occasions for Gramm's meditations on public and private heroism, on modernism's hopes and postmodern despair. In November, he asks us to seek a path toward the 'new birth of freedom' that Lincoln envisioned at Gettysburg.
"The month begins with things that perish. But ultimately, November is a journey of hope, as was Lincoln's journey to Gettysburg. So too I will journey to Gettysburg in these pages. Like Lincoln's fellow citizens, I go there to assuage personal grief, to find answers; and I hope, for me as for them, that my personal sorrows become a vehicle for larger answers and a larger purpose. Lincoln addressed their grief, why not mine; he gave his generation purpose, why not ours.