The Color of Democracy in Women's Regional Writing
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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As David McWhirter knows all too well, I am rarely at a loss for words, but I find it difficult to express adequately my gratitude to him for his ongoing encouragement and eagerness to share his wisdom. With my own growing experience comes the knowledge of how fortunate I am to have him as a model of what it means to be a scholar, a teacher, and a colleague. I am also the happy beneficiary...
Introduction: Writing Region in the New Century
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Edith Wharton once summed up her attitude about modern America thus: “I wanted the idols broken . . . but . . . by people who understood why they were made.”1 Wistfully lamenting the destruction of cultural “idols”—beliefs not necessarily true in an empirical sense, but nonetheless symbolically significant—Wharton especially regrets that they are being destroyed by ...
Part I: “Is New York Such a Labyrinth?”: Street Life and Amalgamation in Wharton’s and Glasgow’s City
It is democracy turned upside down that I object to, . . . There seems a lack of decency about it—as if we were to awake some morning to find the statue of Liberty on its head, with its legs in the air. I believe in the old conservative goddess of our fathers—Freedom shackled by the chains of respectability. Mrs. Preston says this war is to give everybody a chance to lift up his head ...
1. Men of the Mob and “Fascinatingly American” Women
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On May 5, 1912, ten thousand women marched for suﬀrage down Fifth Avenue, starting at Washington Square. It was the largest suﬀrage demonstration in the city to date, as well as the most diverse: society queen Alva Belmont, a prominent figure in the gossip columns, marched in the lead of thousands of female factory workers. The New York Times, which had treated ...
2. “‘Et Que Cétait comme dans Le Livre’”: Wharton, the Harlem Renaissance, and All That Jazz
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In 1927, the same year that she published Twilight Sleep, a searing indict-ment of New York society in the Jazz Age, Edith Wharton wrote to Galliard Lapsley about another novel of the 1920s city published the year before, Carl Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven (1926). Linking, as she often did, literary tastes to social developments (despite not having returned to the United States ...
Part II: “Virginia Is Not Dead but Sleepeth”: Segregation and the “Family Black and White” in Glasgow’s and Cather’s South
As far as the color problem is concerned, there is but one great diﬀ erence between the Southern white and the Northerner: the Southerner remembers, historically and in his own psyche, a kind of Eden in which he loved black people and they loved him. Historically, the flaming sword laid across this Eden is the Civil War. Personally, it is the Southerner’s sexual coming of age, ...
3. Family Reunion: Slavery as Usable Past
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James Baldwin’s 1955 essay “Stranger in the Village,” which describes his experience in a remote Swiss town whose inhabitants have never seen a black man, ends with the observation that despite such insularity, “this world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”1 Referring to the emer-gence of independent nations in Africa, Baldwin writes here and elsewhere ...
4. A House Divided: The Interracial Family and the White Supremacist Community
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In The Voice of the People, as in many of her novels, Glasgow tempers her satire of southern society in the “age of evasive idealism” by linking Virginia’s plan-tation elite to America’s founding. However much they are the object of the narrator’s ridicule, then, the aristocracy of the novel’s setting, Kingsborough, can still take pride in the fact that “long ago theirs had been the first part in ...
Part III: “Fortunate Country”: Old Immigrants and New Women in Cather’s and Wharton’s West
American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. The West is purely a railroad enterprise . . . We started it in our publicity ...
5. How the West Was Whitened
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In the final sentence of O Pioneers! Willa Cather calls the Nebraskan prairie a “fortunate country” that, receiving the hearts of the great pioneers “into its bosom,” will give those hearts “out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth.”1 Linking the land to “the people who own” it, “who love it and understand it,” this exchange memorializes tran-...
6. New Women and the World of Business
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John Gast’s painting American Progress, reproduced widely in print form in the late nineteenth century, captures in microcosm many of the nation’s deeply held beliefs about Manifest Destiny. Telling the story of a frontier dividing line between two worlds—one of which must make way for the other—the image is divided in half: on the left side, Indians and animals (in-...
Conclusion: “Always, Everywhere, Inferior"
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The price the white American paid for his ticket was to become white—: and, in the main, nothing more than that, or, as he was to insist, nothing less. This incredibly limited not to say dimwitted ambition has choked many a human being to death here: and this, I contend, is because the white American has never accepted the real reasons for his journey. I know very well that my ...
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Page Count: 229
Publication Year: 2009