Shadow and Shelter

Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture

Anthony Wilson
Copyright Date: 2006
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvb8d
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  • Book Info
    Shadow and Shelter
    Book Description:

    To early European colonists the swamp was a place linked with sin and impurity; to the plantation elite, it was a practical obstacle to agricultural development. For the many excluded from the white southern aristocracy--African Americans, Native Americans, Acadians, and poor, rural whites--the swamp meant something very different, providing shelter and sustenance and offering separation and protection from the dominant plantation culture.

    Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Cultureexplores the interplay of contradictory but equally pre-vailing metaphors: first, the swamp as the underside of the myth of pastoral Eden that defined the antebellum South; and second, the swamp as the last pure vestige of undominated southern eco-culture. As the South gives in to strip malls and suburban sprawl, its wooded wetlands have come to embody the last part of the region that will always be beyond cultural domination.

    Examining the southern swamp from a perspective informed by ecocriticism, literary studies, and ecological history,Shadow and Shelterconsiders the many repre-sentations of the swamp and its evolving role in an increasingly multicultural South.

    Anthony Wilson is assistant professor of English at LaGrange College. His work has been published in theSouthern Literary Journaland the Chronicle of Higher Education's online edition.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-069-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. IX-2)

    This book considers constructions of varied Southern identities through the twin lenses of ecological and literary history, centering on a feature of the landscape that has been linked profoundly and uniquely to the American South—the swamp. The swamp occupies an intriguingly complex and liminal space in the Southern and national imaginations and signifies powerfully across discourses of race, cultural and literal contagion, ethnography, and ecology. The mercurial trace that the swamp registers on Southern intellectual history continually inscribes themes of purity and adulteration played out in an array of political, cultural, and psychological contexts. The central paradox that I...

  5. Chapter One THE SWAMP AND ANTEBELLUM SOUTHERN IDENTITY
    (pp. 3-61)

    The swamp and the myth of the plantation South have always been at odds. For the Cavalier-era Southern mind, ideas of control, purity, and dominion over nature (both within and without) were essential; in both literature and in the real world, the swamp always defied those ideas. In his influential 1996 studyLandscape and Memory, Simon Schama claims that “[b]efore it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock” (6–7). He prefaces his work, however, with...

  6. Chapter Two THE SOUTHERN SWAMP IN THE CIVIL WAR, RECONSTRUCTION, AND BEYOND
    (pp. 62-103)

    For the antebellum South, the swamp began as a region of both danger and great promise—the inspiration for ambitious plans and ultimately a source of frustration for such luminaries as William Byrd II and George Washington. As it proved ever more stubbornly intractable to practical efforts to reap its riches and even, in its breeding of disease and sheltering of runaway slaves, became a kind of loosely personified antithesis of the civilized South, the swamp emerged in literature as a supernatural nemesis to genteel Southern society. Whether it was an entity to be overcome by heroic will, as in...

  7. Chapter Three THE SWAMP IN THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY SOUTH
    (pp. 104-162)

    Even as the South was being redefined in the eyes of the nation by the “literary imperialism” of Northern travelogues, articles, and other depictions, a wave of economic imperialism was beginning to transform the landscape and, in turn, the culture of the South. At the time Edward King was writingThe Great South, Northern industrialists were just beginning to realize the potential profits to be had by harvesting the timber-rich Southern wetlands. King himself perceived virtually limitless wealth to be had from the timber-rich South and perceived no threat to the natural beauty of the landscape from even the most...

  8. Chapter Four THE SWAMP IN THE POSTMODERN SOUTH CONSERVATION, SIMULATION, AND COMMODIFICATION
    (pp. 163-193)

    In light of the prominent trend in Southern literary modernism of reevaluating the swamp in a more favorable light, one might assume a general shift in attitudes toward swamps in the nation as a whole. Unfortunately, the pattern that has emerged in the previous chapter of representing the swamp as a space for potential escape from both flawed Southern past and encroaching future can be conceived as its own tragic story. The perspectives echoed in the Southern writers’ conceptions of the swamp’s regenerative possibilities—however pessimistic their conclusions—were originally strictly those of Northerners (with the notable exception of Sidney...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 194-204)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 205-208)