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Regional Fictions: Culture and Identity in 19th-Century American Literature
     

Regional Fictions: Culture and Identity in 19th-Century American Literature

by Stephanie Foote
 

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"A first-rate work of literary and cultural criticism."

-Eva Cherniavsky, author of That Pale Mother Rising: Sentimental Discourses and the Imitation of Motherhood in Nineteenth-Century America

Out of many, one -e pluribus unum-is the motto of the American nation, and it sums up neatly the paradox that Stephanie Foote so deftly identifies

Overview

"A first-rate work of literary and cultural criticism."

-Eva Cherniavsky, author of That Pale Mother Rising: Sentimental Discourses and the Imitation of Motherhood in Nineteenth-Century America

Out of many, one -e pluribus unum-is the motto of the American nation, and it sums up neatly the paradox that Stephanie Foote so deftly identifies in Regional Fictions. Regionalism, the genre that ostensibly challenges or offers an alternative to nationalism, in fact characterizes and perhaps even defines the American sense of nationhood.

In particular, Foote argues that the colorful local characters, dialects, and accents that marked regionalist novels and short stories of the late nineteenth century were key to the genre's conversion of seemingly dangerous political differences-such as those posed by disaffected Midwestern farmers or recalcitrant foreign nationals-into appealing cultural differences. She asserts that many of the most treasured beliefs about the value of local identities still held in the United States today are traceable to the discourses of this regional fiction, and she illustrates her contentions with insightful examinations of the work of Sarah Orne Jewett, Hamlin Garland, Gertrude Atherton, George Washington Cable, Jacob Riis, and others. Broadening the definitions of regional writing and its imaginative territory, Regional Fictions moves beyond literary criticism to comment on the ideology of national, local, ethnic, and racial identity.

Editorial Reviews

Pricilla Wald
Interest in regionalism is on the rise in literary studies and American studies, influenced by cultural geography, and there is a real need for a work that rethinks the genre of regionalist literature and its literary, political, and social importance. Regional Fictions is that book. Its scope and intelligence ensure that it will be widely read.
Booknews
Foote (English, U. of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana) sees regional writing as a literary strategy that consciously chose the unassimilated territories and nonstandard characters they portrayed. She argues against the conventional notion that regionalism was an antidote to the trauma of urban life, arguing that the genre provides an alibi for alienation and self-estrangement, converting the activities of strange characters into appealing cultural differences. The writers whose work leads her to these conclusions include Sarah Orne Jewett, Hamlin Garland, Gertrude Atherton, George Washington Cable, and Jacob Riis. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299171148
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
03/29/2001
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Foote is assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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