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Two Men, the second novel by Elizabeth Stoddard (1823–1902), was published in 1865, a mere two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Women were prolific writers of fiction during the 1860s, and have also left abundant letters and diaries, but masculinist notions of what constitutes “war writing” have given an incomplete picture of American literature in the crucial decade of the Civil War.
Stoddard’s novel is a tightly compressed, multigenerational family saga that deals with issues of identity—race, class, religion, region, nation—that spoke to general anxieties about reunification in American society. While her short stories focus on female protagonists and typically end in marriage or a reconciliation, Stoddard begins Two Men with a marriage, and in a letter stated her desire to write “the history of a man”. Shayne Laughter reads. Stoddard’s letters, journalism, and diary entries are read throughout the series by Sarah Torbeck, who also reads the author’s dedication of the book to her brother. Doug Storm reads the book’s epigraph from Emerson’s essay “Experience,” and Martin O’Neill reads an excerpt from the preface to the revised 1888 edition written by Stoddard’s friend Edmund Clarence Stedman.
(Broadcast listeners: Stoddard’s story “Lemorne versus Huell,” which concluded in the July 18 broadcast, may be found in its entirety in part three of the series.)
Heather Perry hosts, with announcer Jack Hanek. The episode was produced, written, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe, with assistance from Heather Perry, Sarah Torbeck, and Jack Hanek.
Special music for Two Men comes from the album MacDowell: Second Modern Suite / Étude de Concert / Twelve Études (Naxos, 1999), performed by James Barbagallo (1952–1996). The American composer Edward MacDowell, born in 1860, wrote these works for piano in the 1880s, around the time Two Men was reissued.
Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes