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Additional resources for Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War
Cushman’s early friend Anne Hampton Brewster published her ﬁrst novel, Spirit Sculpture, in 1849—a Christian tale that asked its readers to “carve their own soul’s statue,” to portray themselves every day, sculpting themselves at each moment of their existence, so that at death the composite statue of their being would appeal to heaven. 92 Within the bourgeois parlor, secular behaviors took on an equal stillness. ”93 Beyond this imitation of a sculpturelike performance—itself a strikingly imagined case of Cushman’s distributed personhood, her capacity to deliver herself, or some version of herself, into a distant space in the form of a daguerreotype, a letter, a newspaper article, or (here) an impersonation—such tableaux portrayed the bourgeois self-regulation meant to obtain at all times, game or no game.
I think, this sudden joyaunce which illumes A child’s mouth sleeping, unaware may run From some soul newly loosened from earth’s tombs. 60 In this theory, the vibration and rebound between people occupying insular points in space are clear and direct. There is no signal drift, no swaying and dissolving— or, worse, morphing of action into unexpected reaction. Instead the sleeping child’s smile comes from the soul of a spirit newly raised to heaven, and the poet’s own half-withheld passionate sigh—a sign of her poem itself—reaches out to fan an angel’s wings.
Cushman’s dilemma, like Barton’s, was the “problem of the one and the many, which the war had made so urgent for American culture,” to use the words of the literary historian James Dawes. “One million ﬁve hundred and sixteen names on the muster-rolls, of which seven hundred and ninetyseven thousand eight hundred and seven were present”: General William charlotte cushman 21 Tecumseh Sherman’s statistical account of the Union forces at the end of the war typiﬁes the era’s statistical sublime—the grandeur of numbers that threatened to make any action, no matter how heroic and singular, less the evidence of a bird’s-eye omniscience than a bit of the scrap, stick, and straw that a bird sees from above.