Corra Harris and the Divided Mind of the New South
Publication Year: 2008
Corra Harris (1869-1935) was one of the most widely published and nationally popular women writers in the United States. A Circuit Rider's Wife (1910) was Georgia's most celebrated novel for nearly three decades. Now little read and almost forgotten, Harris's life offers a fascinating glimpse into a world nearly unimaginable to us today.
In her writing, Harris poignantly and often humorously captured the paradoxes characteristic of the New South, a time and place of radically divergent goals. Pressed by national and economic demands to modernize, and regional desire to hold on to the past, leaders struggled at the turn of the century to reconcile competing goals. Issues of race, class, and gender found in Harris's writing were at the heart of the struggle.
In depicting the complexities of Harris's era, her life, and her personality, historian Catherine Oglesby offers a remarkable insight into early twentieth-century literature and culture. She demonstrates the ways Harris's work and life both differed from and were the same as other southern women writers, and reveals the ways time and place intersect with race, class, gender, and other variables in the forging of identity.
Published by: University Press of Florida
Title Page, Copyright
List of Illustrations
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Preface and Acknowledgments
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For a book whose operative theme is contradiction, it seems fitting to begin with a statement of what is not its intended purpose. An observation borrowed from Bettie Rains Upshaw, a close caretaker of Corra Harris, helps. In 1969, shortly after reading John Talmadge’s recently published biography...
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1. Introduction: The “Contradictory” Legacy of Corra Harris
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In 1931, Good Housekeeping editor W. F. Bigelow predicted that Georgia novelist Corra Harris’s reputation would outlive that of Nebraska’s Willa Cather, stating that Harris’s novel A Circuit Rider’s Wife was “far more important than Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.” Attesting to her continued...
2. Family and Tragedy in the Development of Corra Harris
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In the spring of 1923, Corra Harris was working on the sixth installment of My Book and Heart, her first autobiography serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. She wrote editor and friend George Horace Lorimer to ask that he edit the fifth installment as he saw fit. It was about a time and events in...
3. The Influence of Paul Elmer More
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Editor, essayist, and literary critic Paul Elmer More (1864–1937) was a brilliant, polished, sophisticated, Harvard-educated scholar of Sanskrit and Greek. Harris’s and More’s paths crossed at a pivotal stage in the former’s intellectual development, shortly after her literary career began. Although...
4. “A Woman Takes a Look at Politics”
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More than a decade after women gained the vote, Corra Harris wrote: “It may be right but I cannot believe it is becoming for a woman to be interested in politics.” Therein lay much of the source of her ambivalence on woman suffrage: the belief that women could not be who and what they were...
5. The Woman of Yesterday versus the New Woman
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About no subject was Corra Harris more conflicted than gender identity— understandably so, given the contradictions between what she valued, what she believed, and what she experienced as a successful woman writer in the New South. She made a living seemingly promoting values that her life...
6. Widows as the Only “Free Moral Agents”
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In the prime of her writing career Harris venerated domestic tradition in the popular press and blamed and condemned women for straying from its security, yet in some of her fiction there is marked uncertainty and equivocation about traditional roles. Several of the female characters with whom she...
7. “A Woman Who Writes Is Born to Trouble”
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Corra Harris often reflected on the difficulties of a writing career. “It is easier to be a Christian,” she wrote in 1933, “than to become a successful writer.” When fledgling writers asked for advice on how to get started, she tried to convince them that “literary composition is harder work than...
8. From Circuit Rider’s Wife to Spiritual Pundit
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In 1933, J. E. Hall, an attorney friend, wrote to thank Corra Harris for her hospitality on a recent visit he made to the Valley. He was so impressed with her private “dissertations on all that matters in life” that he suggested she “do something to humanize the Bible,” to make it “more intelligible to the...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2008