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The idea of "region" in America has often served to isolate places from each other, observes Douglas Reichert Powell. Whether in the nostalgic celebration of folk cultures or the urbane distaste for "hicks," certain regions of the country are identified as static, insular, and culturally disconnected from everywhere else. In Critical Regionalism, Reichert Powell explores this trend and offers alternatives to it.
Reichert Powell proposes using more nuanced strategies that identify distinctive aspects of particular geographically marginal communities without turning them into peculiar "hick towns." He enacts a new methodology of critical regionalism in order to link local concerns and debates to larger patterns of history, politics, and culture. To illustrate his method, in each chapter of the book Reichert Powell juxtaposes widely known texts from American literature and film with texts from and about his own Appalachian hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee. He carries the idea further in a call for a critical regionalist pedagogy that uses the classroom as a place for academic writers to build new connections with their surroundings, and to teach others to do so as well.
"An important book."
— Appalachian Journal Regional
"Necessarily suggestive, open-ended, and tentative. . . . Envisions new and utopian possibilities for thought and social action while acknowledging the formidable tactical and theoretical obstacles to such changes."
"Important to Iowans and anybody else who lives away from centers of national power."
— The Annals of Iowa
Powell sheds useful light on other fields, demonstrating perhaps unforeseen connections among different areas of study.
Kent C. Ryden, University of Southern Maine, author of Landscape with Figures: Nature and Culture in New England
His perspective is fresh, his writing lucid and graceful, his case studies wide ranging, and his analysis at times quite stunning.
David E. Whisnant, author of All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region
Introduction. There's Something about Mary: The Practice of Critical Regionalism
Chapter 1. Rhetorics of Place and Region: An Appalachian Trail
Chapter 2. From the Playground to the Dumping Ground: Making Regional Connections in Unlikely Places
Chapter 3. Panoramas of Gore and Other Social Inventions: Region on Film
Chapter 4. We Have Only Words Against: Toward a Critical Regionalist Literature
Chapter 5. Scholar Holler: Critical Regionalism and the University
Epilogue. There's Something about Mary (Reprise): Mrs. Edwards and Me
Appendix: Durham Stories