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Remapping Southern Literature

Remapping Southern Literature

Robert H. Brinkmeyer
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Remapping Southern Literature
    Book Description:

    One of the most significant and surprising developments in contemporary southern fiction is that an increasing number of southern writers are writing about the American West. In Remapping Southern Literature: Contemporary Southern Writers and the West, Robert H. Brinkmeyer Jr. studies current southern authors of western novels, historical fiction, and contemporary fiction who have been breaking the mold of southern literature by looking westward. Cut loose, in the postmodern age, from the traditional roots in a sense of place, contemporary southern writers have explored an American West shaped by the myths of lawless freedom and disruptive expansion. The rich and diverse fiction of Doris Betts, Barry Hannah, Cormac McCarthy, Madison Smartt Bell, Richard Ford, Rick Bass, Barbara Kingsolver, Chris Offutt, Frederick Barthelme, Dorothy Allison, and Clyde Edgerton, among others, challenges long-standing definitions of southern fiction and regional identity and reconfigures the myths of the West that have long shaped American life. In Remapping Southern Literature, Brinkmeyer proposes that today's southern writers are not by this shift abandoning southern culture but are instead expanding its reach by seeking to balance the ideals of the South and West. This effort points toward a new literary tradition and a new regional and national mythology that blends place and space, settlement and movement, community and individualism, security and freedom.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3701-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Abbreviations (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Michael M. Cass

    When the Lamar Lectures Committee meets to choose the scholars it will nominate as lecturers to Mercer University’s president, it tries to select those writers whose abilities are most likely to enable it to fulfill the terms of Eugenia Dorothy Blount Lamar’s bequest: to present lectures of “the very highest type of scholarship” that will “aid in the permanent preservation of the values of southern culture, history, and literature.” These criteria are demanding; as a result, most of the forty-two Lamar Lecturers have been prominent senior scholars.

    Several times, however, Mercer has been fortunate to invite a younger-but-maturing scholar as...

  5. Preface to the Paperback Edition (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Preface to the First Edition (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  7. 1 Embracing Place (pp. 1-27)

    In New Westers: The West in Contemporary American Culture, Michael L. Johnson explores the recent resurgence of interest in the American West, an interest manifested throughout this country’s popular culture from Stetson cologne to the Marlboro man to line dancing to adobe architecture. Although fascination with the West and its towering mythology—a mythology encompassing, to name several things, a rugged individualism, wide-open spaces, and a conquering spirit—has long been a shaping force of the American imagination, Johnson persuasively argues that in the mid–1980s Americans began imaginatively embracing the West with unusual intensity and nostalgia. No doubt the...

  8. 2 Bleeding Westward (pp. 28-65)

    Westerns. We have all read and watched them. We all know their appeal. Cowboys, horses, shoot-outs, Indians, majestic landscapes, the lonesome trail. Recent studies of the genre have suggested reasons for its tremendous and ongoing popularity. In West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns, Jane Tompkins argues that Westerns appeal to “a Wild West of the psyche,” which she describes as the psychic hunger for real, hard, down-to-earth experience—“action that totally saturates the present moment, totally absorbs the body and mind, and directs one’s life to the service of an unquestioned goal.”¹ What stands opposite the Western, and...

  9. 3 Regeneration through Community (pp. 66-106)

    Recent Southern writers who write about the contemporary West represent a wide cross section of Southern fiction. Despite their diverse styles and interests, almost all of these authors utilize and revise the American myth of flight westward toward freedom. Driving the narrative in almost all of their work is the dream of stepping free from the confining nets of culture and of starting over with the past left tidily behind. Almost all of these works, in the end, make it clear that this dream is indeed just that—a dream, and one that taken to its extreme becomes a nightmare,...

  10. Epilogue (pp. 107-114)

    In his essay “Doing Good Work Together,” William Kittredge exhorts Americans to embrace a new mythology in order to understand and guide themselves. The Western dream of radical individualism, Kittredge says, destroys both self and community. “We begin to die of pointlessness when we are isolated,” Kittredge writes, and he makes a stirring call for a new American dream: “What we need most urgently, both in the West and all over America, is a fresh dream of who we are that will tell us how we should act. . . . We want the story of our society to have...

  11. Notes (pp. 115-126)
  12. Index (pp. 127-130)