The cabin's floor was also missing, so Irwin located a contemporary puncheon floor at a smokehouse near Sneedville and moved it to the Arnwine Cabin. The stone part of the cabin's chimney was moved from the ruins of a contemporary house in the Laurel Grove community just north of the museum, and a stick-and-mud section was added. Over several years, the cabin was outfitted with authentic furniture, tools, and utensils from the region's pioneer period. The "Mark Twain family cabin" is believed to have belonged to Twain's father, John Clemens , and may have been where the author's older siblings were born and where the author himself was conceived the Clemens family moved to Missouri a few months before he was born.
The cabin was originally located in the Possum Trot community in Fentress County, Tennessee , where John Clemens served as a post master and circuit court clerk. The cabin's chimney was added around The Museum of Appalachia purchased and moved the cabin to the museum in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Museum in Norris, Tennessee. Arnwine Cabin. National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved Retrieved: 19 May Mark Twain. Is He Dead? Colonel Sellers Colonel Sellers as a Scientist.
Clemens father Orion Clemens brother.
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Longworth family . Patterson family . Wilshire family . Crockett Skeen . Madison County, North Carolina. Thomas Tweed . John Peters, Nathaniel Peters . Near Maynardville, Tennessee. Bishop Hatmaker . Powell Valley, Tennessee. Childress family . Hancock County, Tennessee. Southworth , Caroline Gilman , and Augusta Jane Evans Wilson were interested in white upper-class women's experience within this ideal of planter society, just as the male romancers were interested in upper-class masculinity within the same paradigm.
The fictional worlds of both white southern men and women writers privileged the lives of slaveholders, even if plantation settings and slaves are seldom center-stage. Kennedy's Swallow Barn are the most explicit of this genre in exploring directly the workings of the plantation as a theme.
In these novels the plantation is the ideal home, where slaves and slaveholders are part of one patriarchally ordered family that combines economic and social responsibilities. African American writers Frederick Douglass, in The Heroic Slave , William Wells Brown in Clotel or The President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States , and Frances Watkins in fictional narratives such as " The Slave Mother: A Tale of the Ohio " rebuke the genre and gender positions of plantation literature in dramatic ways, appropriating virtues associated with the cavalier hero and the plantation belle for African American characters who actively work against or who are victims of the slave system.
The Anti-Tom Novel. Before the last installment of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared in The National Era in , and before the ink was dry on the book version that came out in March of , southerners were sharpening their pens into knives. The South found no shortage of writers of both genders eager to refute Stowe's villainization of slave owners and her romantization of slaves. Dozens of works of fiction and epic narrative poems were published in counter-attack before the end of the Civil War.
For many years after the war had settled the book's major question, white southerners continued to try to undo the damage to their social image that her novel had inflicted. John P. Kennedy and William Gilmore Simms, the South's two most well known romancers, might be said to have anticipated Stowe more than directly confronted her. Kennedy brought out a second edition of his popular plantation work, Swallow Barn , in , adding a chapter in which the kindly master details his plan to make slavery, a necessary evil even to him, more equitable for the slave.
William Gilmore Simms's Woodcraft was published originally as The Sword and the Distaff only a few months after Uncle Tom's Cabin 's debut in book form, but it contains some discussions that are clear refutations of Stowe's views. Set at the end of the Revolutionary War, Woodcraft embellishes the career of a colorful character, army officer Captain Porgy, to develop a plot hinging in part on the master's close relationship to his manservant notably named Tom. In appeared two of the most significant novels to directly take on Stowe's arguments: Thomas B. The vision that these novels promote is of a South in which slaves and masters enjoy a mutually supportive, familial bond that is only severed by the ignorant or greedy machinations of abolitionists.
The North's capitalistic labor structure is indicted, while the master is cast as the enlightened descendant of the southern heroes of the Revolution, and the guarantor of the rights of land and slave owning man. None of the refutations had anywhere near the persuasive impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Yet the huge popularity of an early twentieth century southern novelist, Thomas Dixon , who followed Stowe's footsteps as a master propagandist, reflects an ironic, even tragic, shift in public will.
Thomas Dixon made use of many of Stowe's effective fictional and rhetorical strategies in his white supremacist novels , works such as The Clansman and The Leopard's Spots that found wide audiences, especially when D. Griffith transformed them into the landmark film Birth of a Nation in Of the many literary works that grew out of the civil rights movement of the s and 70s, one interesting group is the epic novels that return to slavery for plots and characters in order to give the struggle for African American political freedom and socioeconomic justice an extensive historical dimension.
African American writers Margaret Walker in Jubilee , Ernest Gaines in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman , and Alex Haley in Roots published sweeping historical novels that covered the freedom struggle across generations beginning with a realistic portrayal of their heroes' early lives in slavery. A forerunner to these is Arna Bontemps 's novel, Black Thunder , which drew upon Gabriel Prosser's abortive slave rebellion near Richmond in William Styron argued that his novel The Confessions of Nat Turner grew out of his own personal wrestling with civil rights issues.
As a narrative cast within the first-person voice of the slave Nat Turner, Styron drew, as did the writers considered below, upon the slave narrative form, although his novel shows much less awareness of the original slave narratives than do other neo-slave narrative fiction writers. Neo-Slave Narratives are first-person fictional novels that adopt the form of the pre-Civil War, first-person retrospective slave narratives.
Like the civil rights epics, they have grown primarily as a response of African American writers to the s political struggles for equal opportunity. Some of these novels are set completely within the historical period of slavery, while others use features of science fiction time travel Octavia Butler 's Kindred or magic realism techniques allowing fantastic, often anachronistic plot elements Charles Johnson 's Oxherding Tale ; Ishmael Reed 's Flight to Canada The neo-slave narratives are usually very self-conscious in their imaginative borrowings of the actual slave autobiographies, which constitute a kind of parent form for all African American literature.
William Styron's Confessions of Nat Turner draws from the wording of the slave revolt leader's Confession , taken from and published by his lawyer after the revolt. Styron's work, a white writer's appropriation and fictionalizing of a major African American figure's life, was very controversial. African American writers and critics objected strongly to Styron's lack of research into the actualities of slave life and more particularly to his distortions of the known facts of Turner's life. The Confessions of Nat Turner heightened the awareness both within and beyond the African American community of the need for well-grounded efforts to recover and interpret the slave's experience in history and literature.
Sherley Anne Williams 's novel Dessa Rose , in response to what she called Styron's "travesty," took up this challenge with a plot that follows the life of a woman slave who, after an unsuccessful slave rebellion, is able to escape and take charge of her life. The neo-slave narrative celebrates the forceful witness of the fugitive slaves, particularly their will to freedom and their courage in escaping and confronting oppressive, racist institutions, and applies their perspectives to contemporary African American life.
The rural ordering of southern life well into the twentieth century influenced many of its ideological positions, and these positions in turn made the classical genre of pastoral a congenial form for many southern writers. The pastoral is a genre that, standardized by Virgil in his Eclogues , served writers seeking to resolve the tension between memories of a simpler past, associated with nature and rural society, and experience in a more complex present world.
Pastoral literature historically has flourished in times of dramatic change. Writers undergoing a dislocation from a familiar home world turn to the conventions of the pastoral to envision that simpler locale from the vantage point of inevitable loss and removal. In pastoral, then, the past looms large, not so much as a particular historical time and place as an idealized, mythologized lost realm such as Virgil's Arcadia. The past of pastoral is associated with the natural world imaged as the "good earth" or "the garden" and with community shepherd and flock, extended family, village, or homeland.
However, such a version of the past tends inevitably towards nostalgia and fatalism, and potentially towards paralysis. In the South the idealization of the rural past is made even more dangerous, and more complicated, because the white South's Arcadia was predicated upon slavery. The pastoral became a congenial genre for southern writers even before the Civil War, in large part through its ties to agrarian idealism.
Thomas Jefferson 's s invocation, in Notes on the State of Virginia , of the "cultivators," those who "till the earth" as "the chosen people of God," was his attempt to stand against the encroachments into his idyllic Virginia of the trade and manufacturing economy that was already enlisting the enthusiasm of northern colonies. In the next century, John Pendleton Kennedy's Swallow Barn was the evocation of a city dweller a Baltimore businessman and lawyer who created a James River plantation setting both to praise and satirize the country life of his childhood.
Both Jefferson and Kennedy lived in the whirlwind of a complex, changing South, far removed from the cultivators they idealized, with intentional or unintentional irony, in their writing. Herein lies the impetus of the pastoral: its creation of the rustic inhabitants of the good earth always grows out of a consciousness steeped in the effects of inevitable change and displacement.
With the end of World War I, Tate intoned, "the South reentered the world—but gave a backward glance as it slipped over the border" "The New Provincialism. Essays of Four Decades. Chicago: Swallow, Beneath Tate's singling out of World War I as a dividing line responsible for a pastoralized literary consciousness was an awareness of the Civil War as another cataclysmic moment of change and separation responsible for summoning up, in some southern minds, the "backward glance.
The complex literature of the Fugitive-Agrarians Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson and Southern Modernists epitomized by William Faulkner explores, with more guilt, tension, and ambivalence, the emotions of pastoral that we recognize in earlier, and especially white male local color, writers. In their tendency to return to a mythic past, we can connect the more ironic response of Southern Renascence writers to the responses of Local Colorists publishing in the years following "Surrender" and novelists from that time forward who have used the Civil War as the specific historical dividing line between ideal past and real present.
Local Color, Civil War, Agrarian, and Modernist classifications of southern literature all involve evoking a sense of loss through the allure of the threatened natural environment and juxtaposing fading ideals of the past against painful realities of the present. Local color writers of the South were encouraged by northern markets to make plantation and village southern settings into the "good lost land" of pastoral, in part to satisfy the longings of readers increasingly removed in the late nineteenth century from any real experience of country life.
The plantation was mythologized in local color writing more than it had been in antebellum fiction, with slavery ironically now an acceptable feature of the idealization. Following World War I, southern writers confronted historical pressures forcing the South irrevocably from its rural and agricultural base. Certainly in relation to immediate post-Civil War writers, these modern writers saw the past through a glass darkened by shades of guilt and irony that are missing in some Local Colorists, who were trying to win with their pens the war that had been lost at Appomattox.
Nevertheless, the tension between mythologized past and diminished present that characterizes all pastoral is embodied in southern writing of many different places and times: from Jefferson's Monticello and Kennedy's tidewater Virginia, to Grace King's New Orleans and Joel Chandler Harris's middle Georgia, to Ellen Glasgow's Civil War battle grounds and Faulkner's mythical Yoknapatawpha County , to Jean Toomer's Georgia and Zora Neale Hurston's south Florida.
It is a tension involving the ominous threat of change in southern locales that always function only precariously and ambivalently as havens held sacred out of time. Southern writers, particularly after the Civil War, saw the advantage of devising a literary agenda to advance a political one and found in local color writing a successful formula for this program, especially during the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era, roughly from to Southern white writers, both men and women, made local color fiction a convenient tool for insinuating racial paternalism into pastoral evocations of a traditional society of the past.
Popular taste dictated many of the properties of the genre: quaint locales, attention to details of dress, manner, and speech, colorful vernacular dialects, marriage plots which both highlight and overcome difference between families, classes, and regions. Many of the most popular local color works of white male writers Thomas Nelson Page in In Ole Virginia , Joel Chandler Harris in his Uncle Remus tales , James Lane Allen in his many short stories used the mechanism of the frame narrator who speaks in a detached, non-vernacular voice that controls the portrayals of quainter but also less sophisticated narrators in the "inside" story.
The double structures are designed to highlight the gap between simple and "peculiar" or exotic folk, colorful and sympathetic though they may be, and the educated, realistic, framing voice that the reader has no choice but to accept as a higher authority. Herein the pastoral tension between the sophisticated man of the world who takes the backward glance and the rural rustic who has been left behind meet within a dual and dueling narrative structure. White women writers often promoted the same white paternalism Sherwood Bonner in her Dialect Tales , Grace King in stories such as those collected in Balcony Stories , Eugenia Jones Bacon in Lyddy , and Ruth McEnery Stuart in In Simpkinsville , yet they were much less likely to create the remote, outside narrative voice and often used dialect to achieve less patronizing, more flexible versions of life in community.
As we will see below, some white writers and many African American writers during this period adapted local color trappings to literature which set itself against the conservative political agenda of traditional Local Colorists. Southern Civil War literature is distinctive primarily because of its tendency to deal not only, or even primarily, with the conditions of the — war but with the whole fabric of the society that preceded it. Yet the most enduring southern fiction produced to cover the historical scope of the Civil War is that of twentieth century writers whose works display some version of pastoral.
Thus they incorporate, with varying degrees of both longing and irony, detailed visions of plantation life on the eve of the conflict. What is emphasized in the "before the War" sections of such works is the image of the South as a traditional society, securing individuals within sustaining constructions of family and community. Unlike Crane and Bierce, these writers, although differing in technique and artistic as well as political vision, nevertheless begin with the presumption that they must look back as Gordon's title ironically warns against.
For them the Civil War is not a cataclysm set apart from lives contained within community scrutiny, social obligation, and family interaction. The southern works listed above gather families into prescribed rituals as a kind of prerequisite to any dramatization of war. In other words, their conception of war places it within a set of social realities, not apart from them. These works also follow the pastoral in its double thematics: one track setting up the simpler life of antebellum plantation society as a more healthful, life-sustaining time and the other warning that memorializing the past distorts it, while enshrining the past overpowers the present.
This reading of the threat implied in the pastoral is the theme of Allen Tate's poem " Ode to the Confederate Dead " The most brilliant Civil War novel North or South is one that defies genre classifications but one that retains the southern groupings' emphasis on human relationships beyond as well as within war. Evelyn Scott created in The Wave an immense kaleidoscopic epic of lives thrown into chaos through the disorder of war. Its title image indicates the rising and breaking, overpowering force of unchecked emotions that her disconnected, character sketch structure also reflects.
The narrative consists of over one hundred separate but interlocking vignettes recording the workings of individual consciousness, from actual generals and President Lincoln, down to anonymous foot soldiers, children, widows, deserters, and lovers. Two acclaimed recent examples resist geographical as well genre categorization. Set as they are in the western North Carolina mountains and the borderland of Missouri, respectively, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Paulette Jiles's Enemy Women , like Scott's The Wave , foreground human nature and lives rooted in elemental social contexts without grinding the pastoral theme of the past's tyranny over the present.
In , Robert Penn Warren , speaking at a reunion of the Fugitive poets who had banded together at Vanderbilt University in the s, said, "The Past is always a rebuke to the Present. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, , xiii. The Fugitives —Warren, John Crowe Ransom , Allen Tate , and Donald Davidson chief among them—became modern spokesmen for southern agrarianism not only in their poetry, but also in biography, fiction, and literary as well as social criticism. Yet as Warren's reunion comments indicate, the past envisioned can be a rebuke to the present, but is not an agenda for the future.
Warren himself had broken with the Southern Agrarian movement's conservative racial politics by the s, and today their image of the South is often attacked as the construction of a southern male elite promoting a segregationist ideal as a false "Golden Age. From the beginning, literature written within the perspective of southern agrarianism exalted the genteel conception of the farmer and his connection to the land as the means of his enjoying the good life. As Thomas Jefferson put it in a letter to General Washington, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.
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Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground , Elizabeth Madox Roberts's The Time of Man , Julia Peterkin's novels of African American rural life in South Carolina Scarlet Sister Mary , , and the stories collected in Katherine Ann Porter 's The Old Order express an often mystical sense of their characters' relationship to the earth—not the typical objectification of woman as earth but woman as a source of sustenance and energy. Wendell Berry 's essays over thirty years have become influential agrarian statements that are now seen as counter-arguments to current endorsements of a globalist philosophy.
Modernism as a literary category in the United States designates patterns of mind and style as well as a relationship to the historical period of the early s through World War II. Modernist artistic expression reflects the historically marked pressures of the early twentieth century: the disintegration or serious compromise of many forms of authority religious, governmental, gendered ; the development of technologies and intellectual frameworks that changed thinking about time, space, physical being, and consciousness feedback from the work of Darwin, Edison, Freud, the Wright Brothers etc.
In the South, a new generation of writers absorbed these shocks and set themselves the task of interpreting the ramifications for traditional assumptions about their place within a conservative, southern society. They understood the need for new literary techniques, new ways of using language and organizing narrative, in order to deal with new questions about how to render, even where to look for, reality. While African Americans and both African American and white women writers had different vantage points on the radical changes taking place in the South, many writers, regardless of race or gender, were inclined to combine pastoral thematics with modernist technical innovations.
William Faulkner's novels of Yoknapatawpha give classic expression to the underlying pastoral emphasis of much of the southern writing that addressed modernist issues. Faulkner found innovative linguistic and structural ways to access the past in order to dramatize the modern southerner's loss of traditional avenues of knowledge and his search for viable forms of order. The pastoral invocation of the past involves the idea of time as enemy time synonymous with the sterile mechanics of motion, with chronology as a tyrannical absolute of order, and with death. Faulkner wrote novels that dealt definitively with modern man's and sometimes woman's disconnection from nature and memory, with the loss of faith in God or tradition, and with alienation from any sustaining conception of community.
Other white writers, particularly Robert Penn Warren in All the King's Men , Eudora Welty in her many novels and short stories, Walker Percy in The Last Gentleman , and James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men , used similar modernist narrative techniques, particularly the brooding, interiorized first-person consciousness fragmented into multiple points of view and disruptions of chronological time. Neither of these African American writers in any way glosses over the racial oppression associated with the southern rural landscape, but both assert that a search for inheritance and sustenance within a southern past is essential to the attainment of full identity.
Southern women of the early twentieth century, African American and white, might be expected to have had problems finding empowerment within the context of images of land and traditional order. Yet from Kate Chopin and Ellen Glasgow as transitional figures of great importance, to Hurston, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Eudora Welty, Katherine Ann Porter , and Harriet Arnow, southern women writers have returned to, revised, and revitalized the meaning of women's relationship to the land and to tradition.
For much of the twentieth century, critical focus within southern literary study has emphasized constructions of white elite experience within one rigidly controlled and controlling domain: the world of the plantation owners and their modern class descendants who manipulated state houses and social registers through economic privilege. Their stories, both in triumph and in loss, were considered the story, and their canon, so designated through dozens of literary studies and anthologies, conveyed a white male conservative reading of what mattered in the South.
Just as strong, however, is a southern tradition of counter-pastoral literature. These works are by place-identified writers who have nonetheless written with a sense of disfranchisement and a will to criticize, not by constructing idealized myths of a romantic or tragic past but by confronting falsely based narratives of dominance. Their counter-narratives present many souths , as places of experience, not privileged artifacts of memory.
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As early as , one of the South's most privileged storytellers, William Byrd , writing in The History of the Dividing Line of how he and his team surveyed the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina, identified a different kind of line, one that separates southern counter-pastoral writing from the more elitist agrarian and pastoral genres. As he mockingly described the non-slave and non-landholding North Carolinians below "the line," Byrd in his description of "Lubberland" opened a space for a long tradition of southern works that offer an unruly version the South's inhabitants and manners.
Like the literatures of slavery, the South's counter-pastoral literatures revise the dividing lines for the reading of southern cultures. The South's counter-pastoral literatures create characters who subvert privilege based on race, class, gender or pride of place. As we have seen, some southern writers harnessed the pastoral genre's focus on a traditional past in order to express fear of change or frustration with the complexities of the present.
One important strain of counter-pastoral writing answered this longing by harnessing the genre's equal potential for irony to expose the blindness or self-serving motives of the master class. Mark Twain 's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn stands as perhaps southern literature's most compelling work of counter-pastoral. Southwestern humorists were pioneers of counter-pastoral literature who debunked notions of class privilege upon which much southern pastoral has been constructed.
This rowdy genre gave Twain some of his most useful models for contesting the emerging white racist power structure of Post-Reconstruction. Using subversive trickster humor, the southwestern humorists of antebellum times displaced the traditional gentleman, supplanting him not with a counter-ideal but with rugged, sometimes openly anarchist anti-heroes. Counter-pastoral realists of the twentieth century rejected myths of a "usable past" as they confronted urgent contemporary problems set within everyday dimensions of space and time.
Their works present competing versions of the roots of southern culture that challenge the modernist tendency to privilege historical consciousness over social conscience. These southern literatures are not conceived as "acts of memory" involved in "recovering" the Past.
HIGH HUMOR OF THE HILLS
Instead such works emphasize locating and questioning realities in the present, starting with the question of whose stories are actually being lived in heterogeneous souths, the souths acclaimed by C. When one finds the rich veins of literature that exist beyond the plantation South and beyond the experience of white privilege, the South becomes multi-dimensional in several respects.
A variety of southern regions appear as important sites of economic and social organization. New kinds of characters are presented as positive figures: the African American school teacher, the redneck truck driver, the poor white single mother become subjects and voices instead of objects or hapless victims. The counter-pastoral novel zeroes in on the social change by portraying characters predominantly within plots of economic struggle.
In some even more estranged counter-narratives, writers' visions of multiple are produced from surreal distortions of traditional place and gentrified characters. The Gothic horrors of the southern-born Poe, the outrageous exaggerations of the antebellum southern humorists, the grotesque bodies of post-Renascence writers such as Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Lewis Nordan, and Randall Kenan take center stage in these assertions of myriad souths against the "chosen" South of one literary tradition. Mark Twain's Huck Finn is southern literature's poster boy for counter-pastoral.
He has no "truck" with what has been called "the party of the past. His backward glance is taken through the eyes of a child who exists uneasily on the margins of a supposedly idyllic village. His ambivalence is traced satirically in his relations on the one hand with Jim , a slave, and on the other with several varieties of white communities. By the time that Twain wrote Pudd'nhead Wilson in , even Huck's mild pastoral meditations, dreamy reflections made as he floats briefly out of time with Jim on the river, have been banished.
Pudd'nhead Wilson confronts the absurd final consequences of white southern racist order. Several other southern writers of the s and 90s also wrote against the mythologizing currents of much " New South " writing in counter-pastoral fiction that utilized many of the staples noted above of local color.
Charles Chesnutt's The Conjure Woman , with its intricate frame narration, allows the black former slave narrator Uncle Julius to undercut all the nostalgic functions that the faithful retainer type performed for pastoral writers such as Joel Chandler Harris and Thomas Nelson Page. Uncle Julius, in rich vernacular dialect, critiques the white racist and class assumptions of the outside frame narrator, John.
His conjure stories are set before the Civil War, but Chesnutt looks at the slavery era not to idealize the past, but to offer analogies between the brutal governance of slaveholders and the racist political assumptions and policies of the present, North and South. George Washington Cable in The Grandissimes more directly attacked racial prejudice through mulatto characters negotiating the complex color lines of New Orleans, a metropolitan region that offers an extreme version of caste, class, and race politics.
Kate Chopin and Grace King also depicted mulatto characters who transgress the illogically racialized social structures of New Orleans, as did the African American writer Alice Dunbar-Nelson. DuBois in Souls of Black Folk , as well as Chesnutt in The Marrow of Tradition especially , made the South a site synonymous with racial violence and injustice. A masterwork of twentieth century African American fiction, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God , can also be seen as counter-pastoral, especially in its construction of a very different mythology out of the oral folk culture of African Americans.
The southwest as a regional literary imaginary has its boundary wherever the southern backwoods begins to meet the outer edges of civilization. The tales of this genre belong not to what we now know geographically as the Southwest e. Arizona and New Mexico but to the southern frontier , which might be western Mississippi, or any sparsely settled section of Alabama, Tennessee, or middle Georgia, wherever regulated society had not yet taken root. When Johnson Jones Hooper 's con man protagonist Captain Simon Suggs comments in Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs that it is "good to be shifty in a new country," he identifies the imaginative landscape of southwestern humor.
It is the "new" place that gives the lie to the ideal of the "Old" South as place distinguished by tradition, history, manners, and law. The nineteenth century humorists were usually men of education and urbanity writing for popular men's magazines. In their unruly representations, a man can lose his nose in a fight in Augustus Baldwin Longstreet 's Georgia Scenes ; transplanted Virginians trying to "lord" over others in frontier communities are routinely victimized by sharper drifters with no pedigrees in Joseph Glover Baldwin 's Flush Times in Alabama and Missisippi ; a phony preacher can be conned by an even phonier convert in Hooper's Captain Simon Suggs ; a lowlife of the first order named Sut Lovingood can victimize innocent bystanders simply because he is feeling out of sorts in George Washington Harris 's Sut Lovingood Yarns The southwestern humor tales satirize many elements of antebellum plantation fiction through tricksters who in their disdain for the classic virtues hold up an ironic, inverted mirror to slave-holding society and its hypocrisies.
The stories contain exaggeration of both speech and incident, while their protagonists both critique and subvert the dominant power structure. At their most violent or absurd, the tales of the genre offer versions of anarchy that seem especially to target preoccupations with social class. The poor white challenges any class claim to superiority. In the world of hunting, horse-swap, yarn-spinning, and woman-bashing that marks the genre, the condescension of the gentleman or dandy is no match for the resentment and the amorality of an unaccommodated breed of backwoodsman.
Although southwestern humor tales have long been considered a male genre, in part because of their popularity in men's sporting journals , southern women also took to this form, generally somewhat later and within the generic conventions of local color. Idora McClellan Plowman Moore , recently given new attention by scholar Kathryn McKee, wrote comic sketches for southern newspapers — that clearly belong to the southwestern humor tradition, especially in her use of poor white storyteller Betsy Hamilton.
When the South was identified by President Franklin Roosevelt as America's " number one " economic problem in the s, southern writers were already responding to the realities of the rural and industrial poor with fiction that has often been included in categories of " Social Realism ," "The Protest Novel," or the "Proletarian Novel. A genre of "problem" literature incorporates these factors into its dramatic treatment of poverty and injustice. Writers in this group stake out resistance specifically to agrarian and pastoral literatures that gloss over racism and the suffering of sharecropping farm families in their attempt to associate the good life with idealizations of the past or life lived close to nature.
Stribling was an early pioneer of southern problem literature who belonged to what was known as the " revolt from the village " school associated more with northern and midwestern writers such as Sinclair Lewis. Erskine Caldwell was probably the most visible but also most controversial of the "problem" novelists in the s, scoring with sensationalist, grotesque portrayals of poor whites in fiction such as Tobacco Road but also with a more realistic, sympathetic photo-documentary text with Margaret Bourke-White , You Have Seen Their Faces Very different from the outside observer Caldwell was Harry Kroll , who in a non-fiction account, I Was a Share-Cropper , and in novels such as The Cabin in the Cotton approached poor white tenant farming from his own experience.
Richard Wright in Uncle Tom's Children and Black Boy also experienced firsthand some of what he shows in this collection of short stories: the doubly brutalizing existence that poor blacks endured in the rural South. Probably the earliest novel to focus on poor whites was Edith Summers Kelley 's Weeds , a naturalistic study of Kentucky tobacco farming.
Her position points to an interesting aspect of southern problem literature, the relatively high number of women writers who turned to its resistance format. Margaret Mitchell 's Gone With the Wind was a brilliant version of the modern historical romance form that many women, nation-wide, were successfully mastering. Still, many southern women writers moved away from this traditional women's market. Lillian Smith in her novel Strange Fruit and her eloquent, confessional autobiography Killers of the Dream took a courageous stand against segregation.
Resistance autobiographies like Smith's that concentrate on the "problem" of class and race discrimination have been a special province of southern women writers. They represent experiences that cross these divisions, from Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin 's The Making of a Southerner , charting a white woman's growing distance from an upper-class family's paternalistic racism, to Anne Moody 's Coming of Age in Mississippi , describing a black girl's adolescence in an impoverished rural household, and from Ellen Douglas's Truth: Four Stories I am Finally Old Enough to Tell , concerning her middle class family's racist past, to Linda Flowers 's firsthand account, in Throwed Away , of growing up in a sharecropping family.
Southern women writers were also frontrunners in treating the urban, industrial South in the s. Harriette Arnow 's The Dollmaker brought an Appalachian woman writer's viewpoint to the issue of the effects of industrialization on rural families through her story of a displaced Kentucky family during World War II. In another southern woman writer, Harper Lee , published what is probably the modern South's most popular novel of social protest, To Kill a Mockingbird. Contemporary writers such as Harry Crews in A Childhood: The Biography of a Place and Dorothy Allison in Bastard Out of Carolina deal with the experience of poor whites in graphic ways that in some respects makes them southern problem naturalists, but in others allies them with the genre of the Southern Grotesque.
Often the terms Gothic and Grotesque are interchanged when applied to the South the only place to which both rubrics have been consistently applied as literary denominators. Writers of southern Gothic or Grotesque combine comic or obscene exaggeration with sometimes gratuitous violence, often within representations of physical deformity or sexual deviance. The Grotesque genre in southern literature begins with southern-born Edgar Allan Poe , whose radical experience of repression and alienation in his case, alienation from the upperclass Richmond society of his adoptive father is reflected in the nightmare landscapes that appear in his fiction.
His gothic works of horror appeared around the same time as southwestern humor writing, and as different as the two genres might seem, they share elements of distortion and displacement, gratuitous violence, and outrageous hostility. Possibly these similar traits represent a kindred response to the stultifying effects of traditional antebellum plantation society, which in a resistance view functioned only through blindness to the horrors inherent in slavery and through pretentious rituals of honor and obedience.
His characters' obsession with control explodes into bizarre excesses and disfiguring disease. Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams apply different kinds of gothic effects in some of their works, often as they address alienation and disorder in modern southern settings. Yet the most interesting, and most radical inheritors of the Grotesque are women writers of the later modernist era, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor , who developed this sensibility into very different strands.
Their deformed, freakish, psychotic, or imbecilic female characters are inversions of the pure white southern woman, icon of the well-ordered universe of southern tradition. The dramas of Tennessee Williams and the stories of Truman Capote and Peter Taylor reflect this iconography of estrangement as well in physical, often sexual grotesqueries. If the South seems especially hospitable to such types, some scholars and writers speculate, it may be because its social codes have allowed so few avenues for the expression of disagreement or even confusion about the controlling norms.
Flannery O'Connor's affinity for the grotesque is unique because her explanations and usages are tied to her firm sense of spiritual realities that southerners, she says, have always been more ready to acknowledge than other Americans. Her imagined South is defined as that "Christ-haunted landscape" in which characters can be forgiven anything except spiritual complacency.
Epiphanies occur for O'Connor's ideal modern readers when they experience a sense of the uncanny translated for O'Connor into spiritual grace through the grotesque mode's combining of strange, often violent "discrepancies" or oppositions in plot, character or imagery. Following O'Connor, and deeply indebted to her, are several contemporary southern writers who are interested in her use of the Grotesque as a way to critique a stultifying, spiritually arid modern landscape. Cormac McCarthy , Harry Crews, Barry Hannah , Tim McLaurin , Lewis Nordan especially in Wolf Whistle and Larry Brown apply the principles of the Grotesque in works of fiction that often are considered under a separate rubric, that of " Grit Lit " not to be confused with the use of the term "Gritlit" for all of southern literature.
Like O'Connor's grotesque comedies, some of these writers' works can be violently comic, while others are more likely to shock or repulse readers through raw portrayals of life at its grimmest. Grit Lit can chart the disintegration of characters bereft of dignity or hope but it can also call forth sympathy for forgotten lives and wasted promise. She also lectures locally and nationally on the culture of the Old South.
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