South by Southwest
Katherine Anne Porter and the Burden of Texas History
Publication Year: 2013
An interdisciplinary study of Katherine Anne Porter’s troubled relationship to her Texas origins and southern roots, South by Southwest offers a fresh look at this ever-relevant author.
Today, more than thirty years after her death, Katherine Anne Porter remains a fascinating figure. Critics and biographers have portrayed her as a strikingly glamorous woman whose photographs appeared in society magazines. They have emphasized, of course, her writing— particularly the novel Ship of Fools, which was made into an award-winning film, and her collection Pale Horse, Pale Rider, which cemented her role as a significant and original literary modernist. They have highlighted her dramatic, sad, and fragmented personal life. Few, however, have addressed her uneasy relationship to her childhood in rural Texas.
Janis P. Stout argues that throughout Porter’s life she remained preoccupied with the twin conundrums of how she felt about being a woman and how she felt about her Texas origins. Her construction of herself as a beautiful but unhappy southerner sprung from a plantation aristocracy of reduced fortunes meant she construed Texas as the Old South. The Texas Porter knew and re-created in her fiction had been settled by southerners like her grandparents, who brought slaves with them. As she wrote of this Texas, she also enhanced and mythologized it, exaggerating its beauty, fertility, and gracious ways as much as the disaffection that drove her to leave. Her feelings toward Texas ran to both extremes, and she was never able to reconcile them.
Stout examines the author and her works within the historical and cultural context from which she emerged. In particular, Stout emphasizes four main themes in the history of Texas that she believes are of the greatest importance in understanding Porter: its geography and border location (expressed in Porter’s lifelong fascination with marginality, indeterminacy, and escape); its violence (the brutality of her first marriage as well as the lawlessness that pervaded her hometown); its racism (lynchings were prevalent throughout her upbringing); and its marginalization of women (Stout draws a connection between Porter’s references to the burning sun and oppressive heat of Texas and her life with her first husband).
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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The paper on which this book is printed meets the minimum requirements of Ameri-can national standard for information sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed south by southwest : Katherine Anne Porter and the burden of Texas isBn 978-0-8173-1782-9 (hardcover : alk. paper) — isBn 978-0-8173-8649-8 (ebook)1. Porter, Katherine Anne, 1890-1980—Knowledge—Texas. 2. Porter, Katherine ...
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List of Illustrations
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...even today, more than thirty years after her death, Katherine Anne Porter re-mains a fig ure of fascination. Probably she is most widely remembered for the award- winning movie made from her one novel, Ship of Fools. readers of a cer-tain age may recall her as a strikingly glamorous pub lic fig ure whose photo-graphs appeared in upscale magazines. others may recall reading short stories ...
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...my gratitude for the help, advice, and good examples on which i have drawn for this book go back so far that i’m reluctant to start mentioning names for fear i will inadvertently omit some. yet i cannot ignore my many debts.i particularly want to thank Ann romines, of The George Wash ing ton uni-versity, for telling me that she would be eager to see anything more that i might ...
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The bulk of Katherine Anne Porter’s papers are housed at the university of maryland, College Park. unless otherwise indicated, all letters quoted or cited here are to be found there. Whenever possible, notes are incorporated into the text with page numbers shown in parentheses. for basic facts of Porter’s life i rely primarily on the biographies by Joan Givner and Darlene unrue, without ...
1. Callie Russell Porter’s Texas: History, Geoculture, and the Need to Escape
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The south erner, and even more the Texan, was always gun- ready.Katherine Anne Porter liked to call herself “the first and only serious writer that Texas has produced.”1 By “serious writer,” she would have meant a writer of lit-erary fiction or a polished stylist, discounting his tori cal or naturalist writing. in those terms her claim to being the first was well founded, though not, as she ...
2. Away and Yet Not Away
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...i am doing more, and meeting cleverer people, than ever i did in all —Katherine Anne Porter to “Baby” (sister), 1919, from Denverlord, how we do go back to the soil we sprang from as we grow up . . . [but] here is where i can work, and where i can work, there i live.Katherine Anne Porter’s departure from Texas in the spring of 1918 was one of ...
3. The Mexican Dream and Its Realities
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...i am perfectly certain that my time in mexico was one of the very impor-tant times of my life. i think it influenced everything i did afterward.—Katherine Anne Porter, review of Idols behind Altars, by Anita BrennerDuring her four stays in mexico during the 1920s, Porter completed her emer-gence as an artist. some of her most celebrated short fiction appeared during ...
4. Recalling Childhood: Beauty, Death, and “The Old Order”
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Porter and eugene Pressly sailed for europe from veracruz on August 22, 1931, aboard the German ship We r r a . During the crossing she kept a journal- letter to Caroline Gordon, dotted with barbed descriptions of fellow passengers. This would become the germ of her novel Ship of Fools, where the We r r a reappears as the Ve r a . otherwise, she did not work during the voyage. frustrated by her in-...
5. Seizing the Moment: Endless Memory and “Noon Wine”
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All the things i write of i have first known, and they are real to me.Porter’s years in Paris in the early 1930s were a time of achievement, especially with the completion and publication of “The old order.” They were also a tense time, fraught with concern over German rearmament. in addition, Porter had health problems, and her disposition suffered. nevertheless, this trying period ...
6. Awakening the Southern Belle from Her Dream of a Horse Race
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...in the literary marketplace, the role Porter played was that of an artistic south ern belle, a sort of scarlett o’Hara who was also a literary genius.Their stories were almost always love stories against a bright blank heavenly “old mortality” and “Pale Horse, Pale rider,” two of the three impressive no-vellas Porter completed in 1936 and 1937 as she “seized the day” of her artis-...
7. Racial Nightmares and “The Man in the Tree”
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...—Abel meeropol, “strange fruit,” recorded by Billie Holliday in 1936The only direct account of racial violence in any of Katherine Anne Porter’s pub-lished fiction comes in “The Witness,” where uncle Jimbilly recounts the abuse “Dey used to take ’em out and tie ’em down and whup ’em,” he muttered, “wid gret big leather strops inch thick long as yo’ ahm, wid round holes ...
8. War’s Alarms: Three Texans, Two Wars
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...imagine that it has really taken me all this time to understand that recur-ring war, every generation, is the constant, the one thing we can depend in her caustic essay about Gertrude stein “The Wooden umbrella,” Porter char-acterized the “literary young” who gathered around stein in Paris, “snatching” at her every word, as “children . . . between two wars in a falling world” (CE ...
9. Two Almost-Last Straws
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...i chose a perfect old stone house and barn sitting on a hill, renovated it splendidly, and left it forever, all in one fine June morning. in this snap-shot style, i have also possessed beautiful old Texas ranch houses; a lovely little Georgian house in Alexandria, virginia; an eighteenth- century spanish- french house in louisiana. . . . indeed, i have lived for a few ...
10. Sexual Politics and Ship of Fools
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Although of an age to be a grandmother, miss Porter somehow still com-in 1964 a new phrase, “women’s liberation” (or simply “women’s lib”), entered the Ameri can lexicon. Propelled by two major publishing events—the english translation of simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in 1953 and Betty friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963—reinforced by the launching of Ms. magazine ...
11. Never Reconciled
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With saint francis let us praise our sweet sister Death, who sometimes one of the two happiest events of Porter’s last few years was her return to the Catholic Church. she had developed friendships among the nuns of the College of notre Dame of maryland, in Baltimore, and they gently led her back. As long as she was able, she went to special services in the college chapel and received ...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 16 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013