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The Dream of Arcady

Place and Time in Southern Literature

Lucinda Hardwick MacKethan

Publication Year: 1999

“This is a well-organized, gracefully written account of a significant aspect of Southern fiction, and it contains information and incisive commentary that one can find nowhere else.” –Thomas Daniel Young Many southern writers imagined the South as a qualified dream of Arcady. They retained the glow of the golden land as a device to expose or rebuke, to confront or escape the complexities of the actual times in which they lived. The Dream of Arcady examines the work of post-Civil War southern writers who criticize the myth of the South as pastoral paradise. Sooner or later in all their idealized worlds, the idyllic vision fades in an inescapable moment of awakening. This moment, which is central to MacKethan’s study, produces an atmosphere pastoral in mood and implications. Her perspective analysis juxtaposes the responses of Sidney Lanier, Joel Chandler Harris, and Thomas Nelson Page, who contributed to yet hope to transcend sectionalism, with the ambivalent views of black writers Charles Chesnutt and Jean Toomer. Considering the writings of the Agrarians, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty, MacKethan then concludes her study by questioning whether the Arcadian dream still serves the artist of our era as a frame for artistic and ideological purposes.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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p. 1-1


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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

List of Abbreviations

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p. ix-ix

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ONE: The South as Arcady: Beginnings of a Mode

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pp. 1-17

In 1863 a fifteen-year-old printer's apprentice, living on a quiet plantation in Georgia, published a brief essay on the charms of rural life in his employer's journal, The Countryman. The boy was Joel Chandler Harris; the theme of his rather light descriptive piece was one to which ...

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TWO: Sidney Lanier: The Scythe of Time, The Trowel of Trade

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pp. 18-35

"So is your pastoral life whirled past and away" This was Henry David Thoreau's reaction as he watched a cattle train roar through the woods near Walden Pond. The "ear-rending" sound of the train occurs many times in Thoreau's essay, always interrupting, always disturbing the beauty and ...

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THREE: Thomas Nelson Page: The Plantation as Arcady

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pp. 36-60

Thomas Nelson Page, like Sidney Lanier, located Arcady in a dream of the past for which chivalry and simplicity served as cornerstones. Yet in all other respects, Lanier's pastoral landscapes seem very different from Page's. Lanier often looked to feudal England as a model environment, and ...

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FOUR: Joel Chandler Harris: Speculating on the Past

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pp. 61-85

Joel Chandler Harris, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, creator of Uncle Remus, and author of more than thirty books, considered himself to be a simple man. In his later years he liked to call himself "the farmer," and from the start to the finish of his remarkable literary career he ...

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FIVE: Charles Chesnutt's Southern World: Portraits of a Bad Dream

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pp. 86-104

Charles Chesnutt grew up in a time and place that encouraged, and actually necessitated, his cultivation of a sense of irony. As a black man who chose to write fiction during the Reconstruction era, he discovered that there was a ready market for litanies to the plantation and the "old times" of ...

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SIX: Jean Toomer's Cane: The Pastoral Return

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pp. 105-127

Rhobert wears a house, like a monstrous diver's helmet, on his head." He is suffocating under the weight of it, and it is "a sad thing to see a banty-bowed, shaky, rickety-legged man straining the raw insides of his throat against smooth air."1 Like Thoreau's farmer, who has become ...

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SEVEN: Agrarian Quarrel, Agrarian Question: What Shall This Land Produce?

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pp. 128-152

In the poem "Antique Harvesters," which John Crowe Ransom wrote in 1925, a number of opposing directions and images are balanced through the language and situation. The title itself presents something of a contradiction that is complicated by Ransom's choice of adjectives. The ...

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EIGHT: Faulkner's Sons of the Fathers: How to Inherit the Past

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pp. 153-180

In Allen Tate's The Fathers, the characters are taken from a home and heritage that had seemed immune to rime and "scattered into the new life of the modern age where they cannot even find themselves" (TF, 5). The young protagonist who feels most keenly this disruption alternates between ...

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NINE: To See Things in Their Time: The Act of Focusing in Eudora Welty's Fiction

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pp. 181-206

In making a distinction between two forces that are prominent in her fiction, Eudora Welty has written that "place has always nursed, nourished, and instructed man. . . . Man can feel love for place; he is prone to regard time as something of an enemy."1 The feeling for the difference ...

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TEN: The South Beyond Arcady

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pp. 207-217

Eudora Welty published her first short story, "Death of a Traveling Salesman," in 1936. It was, no less than her most recent novel, a work in which both technique and theme relate to the act of focusing. The story closes in on the failures of perception of Mr. R. J. Bowman, who "for fourteen ...


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pp. 219-223


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pp. 225-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780807153550
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807124932

Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 1999