Overview

Appalachia has long been stereotyped as a region of feuds, moonshine stills, mine wars, environmental destruction, joblessness, and hopelessness. Robert Schenkkan's 1992 Pulitzer-Prize winning play The Kentucky Cycle once again adopted these stereotypes, recasting the American myth as a story of repeated failure and poverty—the failure of the American spirit and the poverty of the American soul. Dismayed by national critics' lack of attention to the negative depictions of mountain people in the play, a group of ...

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Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes

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Overview

Appalachia has long been stereotyped as a region of feuds, moonshine stills, mine wars, environmental destruction, joblessness, and hopelessness. Robert Schenkkan's 1992 Pulitzer-Prize winning play The Kentucky Cycle once again adopted these stereotypes, recasting the American myth as a story of repeated failure and poverty—the failure of the American spirit and the poverty of the American soul. Dismayed by national critics' lack of attention to the negative depictions of mountain people in the play, a group of Appalachian scholars rallied against the stereotypical representations of the region's people. In Back Talk from Appalachia, these writers talk back to the American mainstream, confronting head-on those who view their home region one-dimensionally. The essays, written by historians, literary scholars, sociologists, creative writers, and activists, provide a variety of responses. Some examine the sources of Appalachian mythology in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature. Others reveal personal experiences and examples of grassroots activism that confound and contradict accepted images of "hillbillies." The volume ends with a series of critiques aimed directly at The Kentucky Cycle and similar contemporary works that highlight the sociological, political, and cultural assumptions about Appalachia fueling today's false stereotypes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gurney Norman was selected as Poet Laureate for the Commonwealth of Kentucky." —

"An exciting and provocative new collection." — Appalachian Journal

"An important book." — Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"Thought-provoking, admirably accessible to nonspecialist readers, and offers an excellent introduction to Appalachian regional studies. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary and historic Appalachia, it is also a model regional study that provides an excellent comparative perspective for scholars and students of other American regions." — Choice

"A challenge to 'monolithic pejorative, and unquestioned' images of Appalachia." — Chronicle of Higher Education

"Social theory, history, literature, personal experience, and activism are successfully bound, and issues of race and gender are not neglected.... For scholars of the southern Appalachian region the volume is indispensable." — Contemporary Sociology

"An interesting and diverse collection." — Filson Club History Quarterly

"Presents a broad view of a region diverse in population, social issues, and history." — Florida Historical Quarterly

"Addresses the origins and perpetuation of these disparaging stereotypes, and offers writers' personal experiences growing up or living in Appalachia." — Goldenseal

"Provides provocative and insightful essays about this much-maligned region of the United States." — Kentucky Monthly

"One does come away with a better idea of why Appalachians are seen as they are." — Lexington Herald-Leader

"Every subject is covered from AIDS to rednecks to labor activism to the coalfields to race and gender." — Library Booknotes

"Addresses the origins of stereotypes of literature from the region, looks at labor and advocacy movements in Appalachia during this century, offers writers' personal glimpses of growing up or living in the region, and ends by highlighting the stereotypes and broad generalizations that characterize 'The Kentucky Cycle.'" — McCormick (SC) Messenger

"A book that attempts to do a lot, and succeeds on the whole." — Mountain Eagle

"Now we have this thought-provoking collection of essays of the country we northerners knew so little about." — Oakland (MI) Press

"The essays, which share the goal of refuting the ongoing stereotyping of the region, are written from a variety of perspectives — anthropologists, sociologists, fiction writers, historians, health care activists, political scientists, to name a few." — Ohioana Quarterly

"Poring through the book's pages, readers, Appalachian readers especially, will experience a wide range of reactions — anger, humor and pride foremost among them." — Paintsville Herald

"Containing essays written by some of the region's leading scholars, activists, and artists — the list of contributors itself testifies to the creativity of the people in the region and to the contributions Appalachians have made to the nation." — Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"These important, provocative essays are an outstanding contribution to Appalachian studies scholarship, but they are also quite accessible to non-specialists." — Tennessee Librarian

Booknews
A collection of twenty-one essays refuting stereotypes of Appalachian peoples as back roads hillbillies living lives of homelessness, ignorance and inhumanity. Sources of the formation of these ideas are examined, particularly nineteenth and twentieth century literature. Culminates in four articles rebutting the image of Appalachians presented in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, . Essays range from academic to personal. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813143347
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 2/27/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 1,003 KB

Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Acknowledgments xii
I. (Re) Introducing Appalachia: Talking Back to Stereotypes
Introduction 3
Beyond Isolation and Homogeneity: Diversity and the History of Appalachia 21
II. Speaking of "Hillbillies": Literary Sources of Contemporary Stereotypes
A Landscape and a People Set Apart: Narratives of Exploration and Travel in Early Appalachia 47
"Deadened Color and Colder Horror": Rebecca Harding Davis and the Myth of Unionist Appalachia 67
The Racial "Innocence" of Appalachia: William Faulkner and the Mountain South 85
A Judicious Combination of Incident and Psychology: John Fox Jr. and the Southern Mountaineer Motif 98
Where "Bloodshed Is a Pastime": Mountain Feuds and Appalachian Stereotyping 119
Where Did Hillbillies Come From? Tracing Sources of the Comic Hillbilly Fool in Literature 138
III. Speaking More Personally: Responses to Appalachian Stereotypes
The "R" Word: What's So Funny (and Not So Funny) about Redneck Jokes 153
Appalachian Images: A Personal History 161
Up in the Country 174
On Being "Country": One Affrilachian Woman's Return Home 184
Appalachian Stepchild 187
If There's One Thing You Can Tell Them, It's that You're Free 191
IV. Sometimes Actions Speak Louder than Words: Activism in Appalachia
The Grass Roots Speak Back 203
Miners Talk Back: Labor Activism in Southeastern Kentucky in 1922 215
Coalfield Women Making History 228
Paving the Way: Urban Organizations and the Image of Appalachians 251
Stories of AIDS in Appalachia 267
V. Recycling Old Stereotypes: Critical Responses to The Kentucky Cycle
America Needs Hillbillies: The Case of The Kentucky Cycle 283
The View from the Castle: Reflections on the Kentucky Cycle Phenomenon 300
Regional Consciousness and Political Imagination: The Appalachian Connection in an Anxious Nation 313
Notes on The Kentucky Cycle 327
Contributors 333
Index 336
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