One of the foremost critics in contemporary American letters, Christopher Benfey has long been known for his brilliant and incisive essays. Appearing in such publications as the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and the Times Literary Supplement, Benfey's writings have helped us reimagine the American literary canon. In American Audacity, Benfey gathers his finest writings on eminent American authors (including Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman, Millay, Faulkner, Frost, and Welty), bringing to his subjects---as the New York Times Book Review has said of his earlier work---"a scholar's thoroughness, a critic's astuteness and a storyteller's sense of drama."
Although Benfey's interests range from art to literature to social history, this collection focuses on particular American writers and the various ways in which an American identity and culture inform their work. Broken into three sections, "Northerners,""Southerners," and "The Union Reconsidered," American Audacity explores a variety of canonical works, old (Emerson, Dickinson, Millay, Whitman), modern (Faulkner, Dos Passos), and more contemporary (Gary Snyder, E. L. Doctorow).
Christopher Benfey is the author of numerous highly regarded books, including Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet; The Double Life of Stephen Crane; Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable; and, most recently, The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan. Benfey's poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Pequod, and Ploughshares. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Currently he is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.
"In its vigorous and original criticism of American writers, Christopher Benfey's American Audacity displays its own audacities on every page."
---William H. Pritchard
The critical literary world has spent a wealth of thought and words on the question of Hawthorne himself: Where does he stand in his works? In history? In literary tradition? In this major new study, G. R. Thompson recasts the "Hawthorne question" to show how authorial presence in the writer's works is as much a matter of art as the writing itself. The Hawthorne who emerges from this masterful analysis is not, as has been supposed, identical to the provincial narrator of his early tales; instead he is revealed to be the skillful manipulator of that narrative voice, an author at an ironic distance from the tales he tells. By focusing on the provincial tales as they were originally conceived--as a narrative cycle--Thompson is able to recover intertextual references that reveal Hawthorne's preoccupation with framing strategies and variations on authorial presence. The author shows how Hawthorne deliberately constructs sentimental narratives, only to deconstruct them. Thompson's analysis provides a new aesthetic context for understanding the whole shape of Hawthorne's career as well as the narrative, ethical, and historical issues within individual works. Revisionary in its view of one of America's greatest authors, The Art of Authorial Presence also offers invaluable insight into the problems of narratology and historiography, ethics and psychology, romanticism and idealism, and the cultural myths of America.
These lively essays reveal the generational continuum of women's regional literature, which has always offered a voice to women and their concerns. By exploring the multiplicity of connections between women and regional writing and the subversive potential of regional writing to put forth social criticisms and correctives, Breaking Boundaries charts some of the major ways in which this literary genre is of particular importance to today's writers.
An exciting addition to the ongoing debate about the place of regionalism in American literary history.
American regionalism has become a contested subject in literary studies alongside the ubiquitous triad of race, class, and gender. The Color of Democracy in Women's Regional Writing enters into the heart of an ongoing debate in the field about the significance of regional fiction at the end of the 19th century. Jean Griffith presents the innovative view that regional writing provided Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather with the means to explore social transformation in a form of fiction already closely associated with women readers and writers.
Griffith provides new readings of texts by these authors; she places them alongside the works of their contemporaries, including William Faulkner and Langston Hughes, to show regionalism's responses to the debate over who was capable of democratic participation and reading regionalism's changing mediations between natives and strangers as reflections of the changing face of democracy.
This insightful work enriches the current debate about whether regionalism critiques hierarchies or participates in nationalist and racist agendas and will be of great interest to those invested in regional writing or the works of these significant authors.
The Genius of Place examines how, after the War of 1812, concerns about the scale of the nation resulted in a fundamental reorientation of American identity away from the Atlantic or global ties that held sway in the early republic and toward more localized forms of identification. Instead of addressing the sweep of the nation, American authors, artists, geographers, and politicians shifted from the larger reach of the globe to the more manageable scope of the local and sectional. Paradoxically, that local representation became the primary mode through which early Americans construed their emerging national identity. This newfound cultural obsession with locality impacted the literary consolidation and representation of key American imagined places—New England, the plantation, the West—in the decades between 1816 and 1836.
Apap’s examination of the intersections between local and national representations and exploration of the myths of space and place that shaped U.S. identity through the nineteenth century will appeal to a broad, interdisciplinary readership.
Latin American Literature at the Millennium analyzes literary constructions of locality from the early 1990s to the mid-2010s. In this astute study, Raynor reads work by Roberto Bolaño, Valeria Luiselli, Luiz Ruffato, Bernardo Carvalho, João Gilberto Noll, and Wilson Bueno to reveal representations of the human experience that unsettle conventionally understood links between locality and geographical place. The book raises vital considerations for understanding the region’s transition into the twenty-first century, and for evaluating Latin American authors’ representations of everyday place and modes of belonging. It further examines relevant theory on globalization and historical context, discussing the political and economic forces at work in Latin America’s engagement with global processes. Across chapters, Raynor traces localizing techniques in canonical works as well as understudied and peripheral texts, deftly exploring the “local” as a plural concept constructed through language, memory, and attachment to place.
This collection of essays devoted to the centrality of place in the short stories and novels of some of the twentieth century’s most famous American writers was conceived as a way to honor the life and career of Walter Sullivan, an author for whom place was central both in his fiction and in his critical writing. The works explored in this volume range from the Middle West realism of Fitzgerald and Powers to the wilderness vision of Faulkner and the historical and political fiction of Warren.
In “Imagination in Place” Wendell Berry describes how place in the context of local geography, local culture, and agriculture influenced his writings. Thomas Bontly’s “Wallace Stegner’s Lyrical Realism”explains the importance not only of a person’s securing his or her place but of an author’s doing so as well.
Eudora Welty is the pivotal figure in this book, and her "Place in Fiction" is considered in this collection time and again by many of the contributors. Both Lewis Simpson and Denis Donoghue choose her story “No Place for You, My Love” to demonstrate place and its effect on the outside world. Donoghue stresses Welty’s imagery emphasizing the occasional and emblematic nature of the local image. In following the logic of his reflections he decides that Welty’s focus on place constitutes a theory of pastoral.
Lewis Simpson also stresses the importance of place as the essential element in the same story and discusses the mysterious relationship between the two unnamed principals, but Simpson goes on to show the importance of time in fiction, especially the novel; and he reveals the linkage that connects time to memory, specifically to what he deems “the culture of memory” in Faulkner and Welty.
Place, as Eudora Welty declares, is “where [the writer] has his roots, place is where he stands; in his experience out of which he writes, it provides the base of reference; in his work, the point of view.” “Fiction,” she continues, “depends for its life on place.” These essays, whose authors include Joseph Blotner, Scott Donaldson, Charles East, George Garrett, Louis D. Rubin, Jr., and Elizabeth Spencer, prove the truth of that dictum.
Responding to the pressures of current theoretical trends toward models of cultural globalization, the essays collected here bring a historical focus to literary studies. They suggest that only by exploring the particularities of regional historical cultures can the multiple meanings of American identities be understood. Representing a broad range of contemporary criticism, this volume features many short essays by the most well-known and respected Latin Americanists, each devoting attention to specific matters of history. The topics range from Incan architecture to Chicano and Nuyorican habitats; from turn of the century Argentine criminology to Caribbean homophobia; from the rhetorics of independence and dictatorship to Mexican ambivalence about opera and Brazil’s move beyond monarchy; and from the precarious survival of Spanish language in Latin America to its paradoxical legacy of enlightenment in the Philippines. Originally published as a special issue of Modern Language Quarterly (June 1996), this expanded edition includes a new introduction by Doris Sommer and a new essay by Vincente Rafael. Viewed together, these essays reveal a cultural richness that is sure to interest literary scholars and Latin Americanists alike.
Contributors. Carlos J. Alonso, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, John Beverley, Debra A. Castillo, Arcadio Diaz-Quiñones, Juan Flores, Mary M. Gaylord, José Limón, Josefina Ludmer, Francine Masiello, Antonio Mazzotti, Walter D. Mignolo, Sylvia Molloy, Mary Louise Pratt, Vincente Rafael, Julio Ramos, Susana Rotker, Roberto Schwarz, Diana Taylor, Nancy Vogeley
Poets On Place
W. T. Pfefferle Utah State University Press, 2005 Library of Congress PS325.P634 2005 | Dewey Decimal 811.540932
Out to see America and satisfy his travel bug, W. T. Pfefferle resigned from his position as director of the writing program at Johns Hopkins University and hit the road to interview sixty-two poets about the significance of place in their work. The lively conversations that resulted may surprise with the potential meanings of a seemingly simple concept. This gathering of voices and ideas is illustrated with photo and word portraits from the road and represented with suitable poems.
The poets are James Harms, David Citino, Martha Collins, Linda Gregerson, Richard Tillinghast, Orlando Ricardo Menes, Mark Strand, Karen Volkman, Lisa Samuels, Marvin Bell, Michael Dennis Browne, David Allan Evans, David Romtvedt, Sandra Alcosser, Robert Wrigley, Nance Van Winckel, Christopher Howell, Mark Halperin, Jana Harris, Sam Hamill, Barbara Drake, Floyd Skloot, Ralph Angel, Carol Muske-Dukes, David St. John, Sharon Bryan, Donald Revell, Claudia Keelan, Alberto Rios, Richard Shelton, Jane Miller, William Wenthe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Peter Cooley, Miller Williams, Beth Ann Fennelly, Natasha Trethewey, Denise Duhamel, Campbell McGrath, Terrance Hayes, Alan Shapiro, Nikki Giovanni, Charles Wright, Rita Dove, Henry Taylor, Dave Smith, Nicole Cooley, David Lehman, Lucie Brock-Broido, Michael S. Harper, C. D. Wright, Mark Wunderlich, James Cummins, Frederick Smock, Mark Jarman, Carl Phillips, Scott Cairns, Elizabeth Dodd, Jonathan Holden, Bin Ramke, Kenneth Brewer, and Paisley Rekdal.
Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America offers the first extended comparison between American writers Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) and Jean Toomer (1894-1967), examining their engagement with the ideas of “Young American” writers and critics such as Van Wyck Brooks, Paul Rosenfeld, and Waldo Frank. This distinctively modernist school was developing unique visions of how race, gender, and region would be transformed as America entered an age of mass consumerism.
Focusing on Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), and Toomer’s Cane (1923), Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America brings Anderson and Toomer together in a way that allows for a thorough historical and social contextualization that is often missing from assessments of these two literary talents and of modernism as a whole. The book suggests how the gay subcultures of Chicago and the traumatic events of the Great War provoked Anderson’s anxieties over the future of male gender identity, anxieties that are reflected in Winesburg, Ohio. Mark Whalan discusses Anderson’s primitivistic attraction to African American communities and his ambivalent attitudes toward race, attitudes that were embedded in the changing cultural and gendered landscape of mass mechanical production.
The book next examines how Toomer aimed to broaden the racial basis of American cultural nationalism, often inspired by the same cultural critics who had influenced Anderson. He rejected the ethnographically based model of tapping the “buried cultures” of ethnic minorities developed by his mentor, Waldo Frank, and also parted with the “folk” aesthetic endorsed by intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, Toomer'’ monumental Cane turned to discourses of physical culture, machine technology, and illegitimacy as ways of conceiving of a new type of manhood that refashioned commonplace notions of racial identity.
Taken together, these discussions provide a fresh, interdisciplinary appraisal of the importance of race to “Young America,” suggest provocative new directions for scholarship, and give new insight into some of the most crucial texts of U.S. interracial modernism.
Mark Whalan is a senior lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of Exeter. He is the editor of The Letters of Jean Toomer, 1919-1924, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Studies in American Fiction, and Modern Fiction Studies.
Out of many, one—e pluribus unum—is the motto of the American nation, and it sums up neatly the paradox that Stephanie Foote so deftly identifies in Regional Fictions. Regionalism, the genre that ostensibly challenges or offers an alternative to nationalism, in fact characterizes and perhaps even defines the American sense of nationhood.
In particular, Foote argues that the colorful local characters, dialects, and accents that marked regionalist novels and short stories of the late nineteenth century were key to the genre’s conversion of seemingly dangerous political differences—such as those posed by disaffected Midwestern farmers or recalcitrant foreign nationals—into appealing cultural differences. She asserts that many of the most treasured beliefs about the value of local identities still held in the United States today are traceable to the discourses of this regional fiction, and she illustrates her contentions with insightful examinations of the work of Sarah Orne Jewett, Hamlin Garland, Gertrude Atherton, George Washington Cable, Jacob Riis, and others. Broadening the definitions of regional writing and its imaginative territory, Regional Fictions moves beyond literary criticism to comment on the ideology of national, local, ethnic, and racial identity.
Before the Civil War, the South had a flourishing culture. In the dormant decades following the surrender at Appomattox, however, southerners devoted most of their energies to survival, neglecting such luxuries as literature. It was not until the 1920s that the South experienced a significant rebirth of literary activity.
Mark Royden Winchell’s book is divided into two sections. The first, entitled “The Nashville Renascence,” examines this resurgence of literature. This movement was partly an attempt to define or reinvent southern culture both socially and aesthetically, and the Fugitives and Agrarians were at the forefront. Essays in this section explore the political and social vision of the Agrarians; discuss prominent charter Agrarians John Gould Fletcher and Robert Penn Warren; and examine the influence the Fugitives and Agrarians have had on later southern literature, even into the twenty-first century.
The second section of the book, “The Lower South,” deals with writers outside the Nashville tradition, including William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, as well as two novelists who combine elements of southern and western regionalism—William Humphrey and Cormac McCarthy. All of these figures belong to a “lower South,” a region unrelated to the Nashville literati and with an audience less insistently highbrow.
Winchell’s thoughtful and well-informed book includes the most extensive discussions to date of the work of Monroe K. Spears and Walter Sullivan. The essays in this cohesive collection build upon one another to demonstrate how the literary imagination can create different visions of a regional culture and different versions of a regional myth.
When James Lane Allen defined the “Feminine Principle” and the “Masculine Principle” in American fiction for the Atlantic Monthly in 1897, he in effect described local color fiction and naturalism, two branches of realism often regarded as bearing little relationship to each other. In this award-winning study of both movements, Resisting Regionalism explores the effect the cultural dominance of women’s local color fiction in the 1890’s had on young male naturalist writers, who rebelled against the local colorists and their “teacup tragedies.”
An immensely popular genre, local color fiction reached its peak in the 1880s in such literary journals as Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Century. These short stories exhibited local “characters,” depicted marginal groups and vanishing folkways, and addressed issues of absence, loss, limitation, and the past. Despite such prickly themes, according to Donna Campbell, local color fiction “fulfilled some specific needs of the public – for nostalgia, for a retreat into mildly exotic locales, for a semblance of order preserved in ritual.”
By the turn of the century, however, local color fiction was fading from the scene, supplanted by writers of adventure fiction and historical romances, with whom local colorists increasingly merged, and opposed by the naturalists. In examining this historic shift, Resisting Regionalism shows that far from being distanced from local color fiction, nationalism emerged in part as a dissenting response to its popularity and to the era’s concerns about the dominance of feminine influence in American literature. The new generation of authors, including Crane, Norris, London, Frederic, Wharton, resisted the cultural myths and narrative strategies common to local colorists Sarah Orne Jewett, Rose Terry Cooke, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Constance Fenimore Woolson. Yet, as Campbell underscores in her analysis of Stephan Crane’s The Monster, the naturalists could, and did, integrate local color conventions with the grotesque and horrifying to powerful effect.
In clear, accessible prose, Resisting Regionalism provides fresh readings of naturalistic works in the context of the dispute between local color and naturalism. In the process, this book shows the debt naturalism owes to local color fiction and illuminates a neglected but significant literary era.
Award-winning author Frederick Turner examines the lives and careers of nine American authors, the locales they made famous, and the ways in which landscape played a role in the creation of their finest works. Spirit of Place is both a testament to the creative genius of nine of America's most important writers and an insightful investigation of the vital role of the physical landscape in the cultural development of the United States.
Proponents of the new regional history understand that regional identities are constructed and contested, multifarious and not monolithic, that they involve questions of dominance and power, and that their nature is inherently political. In this lively new book, writing in the spirit of these understandings, Kent Ryden engagingly examines works of American regional writing to show us how literary partisans of place create and recreate, attack and defend, argue over and dramatize the meaning and identity of their regions in the pages of their books.
Cleverly drawing upon mathematical models that complement his ideas and focusing on both classic and contemporary literary regionalists, Ryden demonstrates that regionalism, in the cultural sense, retains a great deal of power as a framework for literary interpretation. For New England he examines such writers as Robert Frost and Hayden Carruth, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and Edith Wharton, and Carolyn Chute and Russell Banks to demonstrate that today’s regionalists inspire closer, more democratic readings of life and landscape. For the West and South, he describes Wallace Stegner’s and William Faulkner’s use of region to, respectively, exclude and evade or confront and indict. For the Midwest, he focuses on C. J. Hribal, William Least Heat-Moon, Paul Gruchow, and others to demonstrate that midwesterners continually construct the past anew from the materials at hand, filling the seemingly empty midlands with history and significance.
Ryden reveals that there are many Wests, many New Englands, many Souths, and many Midwests, all raising similar issues about the cultural politics of region and place. Writing with appealing freshness and a sense of adventure, he shows us that place, and the stories that emerge from and define place, can be a source of subversive energy that blunts the homogenizing force of region, inscribing marginal places and people back onto the imaginative surface of the landscape when we read it on a place-by-place, landscape-by-landscape, book-by-book basis.
Violet America takes on the long habit among literary historians and critics of thinking about large segments of American literary production in terms of regionalism. Jason Arthur argues that classifying broad swaths of American literature as regionalist or “local color” writing brings with it a set of assumptions, informed by longstanding habits of thought about American culture, that marginalize important literary works and deform our understanding of them. Moreover, these assumptions reinforce our ideas about the divisions between city and country, coast and center, cosmopolitan and provincial that lie behind not only our literature, but our politics.
Against this common view, Violet America demonstrates just how cosmopolitan the regional impulse can be. In the works of James Agee, Jack Kerouac, Maxine Hong Kingston, Russell Banks, and Jonathan Franzen, the regional impulse yields narratives about the interdependence between privilege and poverty, mainstream and margin, urban and rural. These narratives counteract the polarizing cultural lens that, when unquestioned, sees the red-state/blue-state geography of twenty-first-century America as natural. Tracking the evolution of this impulse to depolarize, Violet America develops a literary history of “regional cosmopolitanism,” a key urge of which is to represent the interconnectedness of the local, the national, and the global. Writers incorporating this perspective redress the blight of America’s neglected places and peoples without also falling victim to the stigmas of being purely regional in their scope and interest. Rather than simply celebrating regional difference, the regional cosmopolitan fiction that Arthur discusses blends the nation’s cultural polarities into a connected, interdependent America.
In Writing out of Place, Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse explore a countertradition of nineteenth–century writing previously ignored by American literary history that challenged the definition of nation and literature that emerged after the Civil War.
Regionalist writers such as Alice Cary, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Grace King, Alice Dunbar–Nelson, Sui Sin Far, and Mary Austin present narrators who serve as cultural interpreters for persons often considered "out of place" by urban readers. Critiquing the approaches to regional subjects characteristic of local color, this book gives contemporary readers a vantage point from which to approach regions and regional people in the global economy of our own time.
Reclaiming the ground of "close" reading for texts that have been insufficiently read, Fetterley and Pryse situate textual analyses within larger questions such as the ideology of form, feminist standpoint epistemology, queer theory, intersections of race and class, and narrative empathy. In its combination of the critical and the visionary, Writing out of Place proposes regionalism as a model for narrative connection between texts and readers that has the potential to transform American literary culture. Arguing the need for other models for human development than those produced in heroic stories about men and boys, the authors offer regionalism as a source of unconventional and counterhegemonic fictions that should be passed on to future generations of readers.