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Upon Provincialism

Upon Provincialism: Southern Literature and National Periodical Culture, 1870–1900

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Upon Provincialism
    Book Description:

    Drawing on tourist literature, travelogues, and local-color fiction about the South, Bill Hardwig tracks the ways in which the nation's leading interdisciplinary periodicals, especially theAtlantic Monthly, Harper's,and theCentury, translated and broadcast the predominant narratives about the late-nineteenth-century South. In many ways, he attests, the national representation of the South was controlled more firmly by periodical editors working in the Northeast, such as William Dean Howells, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Richard Watson Gilder, than by writers living in and writing about the region. Fears about national unity, immigration, industrialization, and racial dynamics in the South could be explored through the safe and displaced realm of a regional literature that was often seen as mere entertainment or as a picturesque depiction of quaint rural life. The author examines in depth the short work of George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Lafcadio Hearn, Mary Noailles Murfree, and Thomas Nelson Page in the context of the larger periodical investment in the South. Arguing that this local-color fiction calls into question some of the lines of demarcation within U.S. and southern literary and cultural studies, especially those offered by identity-based models, Hardwig returns these writers to the dynamic cultural exchanges within local-color fiction from which they initially emerged.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3406-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Local-color writing concerning the southern United States from 1870 until 1900 reveals as much about national readers and editors as it does about the region itself. That is the central claim of this book. The final three decades of the nineteenth century represent the height of the popularity of local-color literature, and the excitement and clamor for southern examples of this writing chiefly focused on its purported authenticity. The fiction promised readers a glimpse into little-known aspects of the post–Civil War South. This unmapped cultural terrain became the imaginative ground upon which many national dramas—such as shifting ethnic...

  6. 1 “The Creative Potency of Hunger”: Travel Writing, Local Color, and the Charting of the Postwar South
    (pp. 17-44)

    At the same moment that southern local-color fiction was exploding onto the national literary scene in the final few decades of the nineteenth century, travel writing about the South experienced an unprecedented spike in popularity. This chapter argues that these parallel histories are not coincidental and explores the intersection of these trends, particularly in terms of the national interest and investment in the postwar South. The Civil War and Reconstruction obliterated the previous relationships between the South and the rest of the nation; local-color sketches and travel narratives were designed to take stock of these changes, and to illuminate what...

  7. 2 Unveiling the Body: Literary Reception and the “Outing” of Charles W. Chesnutt and Mary N. Murfree
    (pp. 45-70)

    Two vignettes that emerge from the offices of theAtlantic Monthlyreveal the nation’s obsession with regional difference, yoking the nation’s thirst for regional authenticity to the author’s body. Both scenes demonstrate that while local-color writing may have served as leisure literature for its readers, it proved necessary for the reading public to feel as if they were reading “real” or “true” stories about the nation’s margins. This desire for authenticity, expressed by literary editors and readers of national periodicals such as theAtlantic Monthly, created and depended upon rigid narratives about region, gender, race, and the experiences of the...

  8. 3 On the Fringes: Local Color’s Haunting of the Unified South
    (pp. 71-105)

    One of the common narratives about the postwar South is that of the “lost cause”—the crises of meaning that emerged within the former white aristocracy, or at least the landowners, who gave so much to the Confederacy and were left with so little. This narrative focuses on the ways in which the South is haunted by its past—the loss of the war and the guilt produced by the racial attitudes used to support the institution of slavery—and the gothic elements in southern writing are often attributed to this haunting, to the legacy of a traumatic cultural memory....

  9. 4 “Wooing the Muse of the Odd”: New Orleans at the Gate of the Tropics
    (pp. 106-144)

    In chapter 3, I discussed the fact that George Washington Cable is generally seen as the writer who conjured the uniqueness of New Orleans for the postwar national literary market. Though less well known both then and now, his friend and colleague Lafcadio Hearn shared many of the same literary and cultural values as did Cable. Whereas Cable was a native New Orleanian who returned creatively and physically to the city of his birth after childhood stays in Indiana and, briefly, Mississippi, Hearn was anything but a native. Born in 1850 on the Ionian island of Leucadia (at times called...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 145-156)

    Upon Provincialismhas examined local color’s depiction of the South in the most prominent national periodicals. In this literature, the trope of the outside traveler visiting a foreign South became the central means of bridging the imaginative gap between the national audience and the local subject matter. I have argued that charting the nexus of reader, writer, and editor expectations about this material reveals the role that the South played in national imaginings about pressing issues, from shifting racial/ethnic demographics, to postwar national reconciliation, to immigration.

    The majority of this book has focused on how these imaginings were filtered through...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 157-174)
  12. Index
    (pp. 175-184)