Dixie Limited

Dixie Limited: Railroads, Culture, and the Southern Renaissance

Joseph R. Millichap
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Dixie Limited
    Book Description:

    In the South, railroads have two meanings: they are an economic force that can sustain a town and they are a metaphor for the process of southern industrialization. Recognizing this duality, Joseph Millichap'sDixie Limitedis a detailed reading of the complex and often ambivalent relationships among technology, culture, and literature that railroads represent in selected writers and works of the Southern Renaissance. Tackling such Southern Renaissance giants as Thomas Wolfe, Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, and William Faulkner, Millichap mingles traditional American and Southern studies -- in their emphases on literary appreciation and evaluation in terms of national and regional concerns -- with contemporary cultural meaning in terms of gender, race, and class.

    Millichap juxtaposes Faulkner's semi-autobiographical families with Wolfe's fiction, which represents changing attitudes toward the "Southern Other." Faulkner's later fiction is compared to that of Warren, Welty, and Ellison, and Warren's later poetry moves toward the contemporary post-Southernism of Dave Smith. These disparate examples suggest the subject of the final chapter -- the continuing search for post-Southern patterns of persistence and change that reiterate, reject, and perhaps reconfigure the Southern Renaissance. As we enter the twenty-first century, that we recall how much the twentieth-century South was shaped by railroads built in the nineteenth century. It is also important that we recognize how much our future will be determined by the technological and cultural tracks we lay.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5915-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chapter One Railroads, Culture, and the Southern Renaissance
    (pp. 1-23)

    Students of the Southern Renaissance will readily recognize my epigraph as Flannery O’Connor’s characteristically clever, ironic, and conflicted assessment of the literary landscape in Dixie as she viewed it in an essay published in 1960, at the moment of transition to another, more contemporary cultural construct we now call post-Southernism. Her controlling symbol of the Dixie Limited also supplies my title for this study, as it neatly encapsulates several subjects, images, and ideas addressed here. O’Connor’s complicated metaphor resonates beyond her immediate situation to suggest the complex of meanings inherent in the relation of Southern railroads, Southern culture, and Southern...

  5. Chapter Two William Faulkner’s Cultural History: Railroads in the Sartoris Fictions
    (pp. 24-35)

    When Flannery O’Connor defined William Faulkner in relation to Southern writing by comparing him to the Dixie Limited, her projection of his fictional power by means of a factual Southern express train proved both effective for her purposes and appropriate to his career and canon. Complicated junctions of actual and apocryphal railroads in both his life and work suggest a closer consideration of this topic within the contexts of Southern culture, Southern literature, and the Southern Renaissance. Finally, Yoknapatawpha’s tracks and trains become complex cultural metaphors providing passages through territory we might call “darkest Faulkner”—the author’s ambivalence, not just...

  6. Chapter Three Thomas Wolfe’s Southern Railroads: Look Homeward, Angel and Beyond
    (pp. 36-47)

    The connections between William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe are many, and they are complex. As this chapter and the next will demonstrate, these relations include both personal and professional aspects in the lives and works of these two prolific writers, perhaps the two most important figures in the traditional canon of the Southern Renaissance. One intriguing element common to both authors is their personal and literary interest in Southern railroads, one remarked by critics of each writer but not developed as yet within the fuller cultural context of Southern studies. This chapter will compare and contrast the real and fictive...

  7. Chapter Four William Faulkner’s Cultural Geography: Railroads in Go Down, Moses
    (pp. 48-60)

    As we discovered in chapter 2, William Faulkner’s railroad images and symbols can be traced from his own family history to the Sartoris family saga, his very first evocations of Yoknapatawpha. Other interesting, important railroads, both factual and fictional, abound, both within and without the geography of his mythic postage stamp of native soil. We can make further distinctions among the more traditional earlier materials, the “high modernist” period between the two Compson novels, and the later work that balances these modes with new considerations of gender, race, and class parallel to those discovered in the later fictions of Thomas...

  8. Chapter Five Robert Penn Warren’s Modern Fictive Railroads: All the King’s Men and Others
    (pp. 61-72)

    Born on April 24, 1905, in the busy rail junction of Guthrie, Kentucky, Robert Penn Warren, like William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe, came of age during the Golden Age of Southern railroading. As his works often recreate his life, especially his boyhood, they also reflect the importance of trains to the construction of the material culture and the imaginative vision of the South. Railroads reconstructed an earlier Dixie, from landscapes to time zones, from modes of perception to means of communication. For Warren, as for the other writers of the Southern Renaissance, trains represented not just efficient transportation and innovative...

  9. Chapter Six Eudora Welty’s Real and Recreated Railroads: Delta Wedding
    (pp. 73-86)

    As indicated in chapter 1, a railroad map of America in 1861 not only symbolizes why the South lost the Civil War but also suggests how trains became such an important aspect of postbellum Southern culture. In addition to the railroad’s archetypal symbolism as the machinery of the twentieth century transfiguring the traditional Southern garden, regional history also freighted the train with special import as a cultural marker. Like many other aspects of its heritage, the Old South’s cavalier attitudes toward railroads were transformed by the trauma of the Civil War and Reconstruction into the New South’s faith in tracks...

  10. Chapter Seven Ralph Ellison’s Railroad Passages: Before Invisible Man and After
    (pp. 87-99)

    Although most of his career and canon reflect his life outside the South, Ralph Ellison can be considered a contemporary Southern writer in terms of both his personal origins and his professional concerns. Born Ralph Waldo Ellison in 1914, his ambitious parents had emigrated west only recently from the deep South to Oklahoma City, searching for a better life. Like many other Southern black immigrants in the West, they were frustrated in their quest, as we have seen in the work of William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. Oklahoma was a historic hotbed of segregation and night riding; the most destructive...

  11. Chapter Eight Robert Penn Warren’s Postmodern Poetic Railroads: Ballads and Recollections
    (pp. 100-111)

    As we discovered in chapter 5, images of tracks and trains observed or traveled pervade Warren’s writing in all genres, particularly his prose fiction, just as they crowded his early life in the Golden Age of Southern railroads. Some of these instances, especially in the novels and stories, may be explained as simply realistic observation and reportage of the era in which railroads still remained a dominant force in Southern culture. However, Warren’s contextualizing of these images in works of all genres most often suggests his focusing themes of place, time, and self-identity. The present chapter will extend our reading...

  12. Chapter Nine Dave Smith’s Post-Southern Railroad Poetry: The Roundhouse Voices
    (pp. 112-123)

    Although many parts of his career and canon reflect his life outside the South, Dave Smith is very clearly identified as a contemporary Southern poet, both by himself and by other poets and critics. Certainly his personal background in eastern Virginia and western Maryland seem Southern enough, as does his present professional situation at Louisiana State University, where he figuratively fills the chair of Robert Penn Warren as poetry editor of theSouthern Review. Between these parts of his life, Smith has lived in and written about several places outside the South, ranging from the American West to western Europe,...

  13. Chapter Ten Railroads, Culture, the Southern Renaissance, and Post-Southernism
    (pp. 124-134)

    Juneteenth, Ralph Ellison’s long-anticipated second novel, appeared at last in 2000, though it was begun almost a half-century earlier. Therefore, its post-Southern identification proves debatable: is it a modernist work published after its time or a postmodernist text existing in an ironic relation to the traditions of its forbears? The title recalls the late emancipation of Texas blacks long after the close of the Civil War, now an ironic celebration of both the promise and the disappointments of Reconstruction. As Ellison puts it in the book, “So that was it, the night of the Juneteenth celebration, his mind went...

  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 135-140)
  15. Index
    (pp. 141-148)