Finding Purple America
The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies
Publication Year: 2013
The old southern studies tends to view modernity as a threat to a mystic southern essence—a dangerous outside force taking the form of everything from a "bulldozer revolution" to a "national project of forgetting." Since the rise of the New Americanists, American studies has also imagined itself to be in a permanent crisis mode, seeking to affiliate the field and the national essence with youth countercultures that sixties leftists once imagined to be "the future." Such fantasies, Smith argues, have resulted in an old southern studies that cannot understand places like Birmingham or Atlanta (or cities at all) and an American studies that cannot understand red states.
Most Americans live in neither a comforting, premodern Mayberry nor an exciting, postmodern Los Angeles but rather in what postcolonialists call "alternative modernities" and "hybrid cultures" whose relationships to past and future, to stability and change, are complex and ambivalent. Looking at how "the South" has played in global metropolitan pop culture since the nineties and at how southern popular and high culture alike have, in fact, repeatedly embraced urban modernity, Smith masterfully weaves together postcolonial theory, cultural studies, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and, surprisingly, marketing theory to open up the inconveniently in-between purple spaces and places that Americanist and southernist fantasies about "who we are"have so long sought to foreclose.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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This did not start out to be a book about fantasies. It started out as an at-tempt to understand why a couple dozen literary scholars of my genera-tionâscholars whose work would eventually be called the new southern studiesâdidnât seem to fi t in anywhere. Our experiences with American studies could largely be summed up by an anecdote Katie Henninger related ...
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What does it mean to be hip in the twenty- fi rst century? If youâre a baby boomer, particularly in academia, you may still think it has something to do with vocal countercultural politics, with sex, drugs, and rock ânâ roll, with rebelling against squares like Dwight Eisenhower and, say, Perry Miller. If youâre an Xer (a term few use anymore), on the other hand, that whole ...
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Is there anything behind the symbols of modern âcountry,â or are the symbols themselves the whole story? Are the hats, the boots, the pickup trucks, and the honky- tonking poses all thatâs left of a disintegrating culture? Back in Arkansas, a way of life produced a certain kind of music. Does a certain kind of music now produce a way of Could the writer in [the South of the late 1960s] write with the same intensity and ...
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Psychoanalysis is much more severe than Christianity: ignorance is not a suffi cient reason for forgiveness since it conveys a hidden dimension of enjoyment. Where one doesnât (want to) know, in the blanks of oneâs symbolic universe, one enjoys, and there is no Father to forgive. âSlavoj Å½iÅ¾ek, For They Know Not What They Do, 1991Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.1 âBarry Goldwater, 1981...
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In our fi nal year of high school, my best friend, Lan Ying, and I passed the time with morbid discussions about the meaninglessness of life when everything had already been done. The world stretched out before us not as a slate of possibility, but as a maze of well- worn grooves like the ridges burrowed by insects in hardwood. Step off the straight and narrow career- and- materialism groove and you just ended up in another ...
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Sometimes the trivia of everyday life can be hard to fi nd pleasure in. One reason my wife and I loved Birmingham so much is that we had moved there from a small town in Mississippi (where my wife had been teaching at a small public liberal arts university) an hour from the nearest interstate. Consumer culture in such places is hard to describe if you havenât lived in one of them. ...
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On March 2, 2003, when readers of the Boston Globe opened their Sunday papers and turned to the Parade magazine inside, they may have noticed, with St. Patrickâs Day fast approaching, the full- page Franklin Mint adver-tisement on the back cover for the âIrish Blessing Charm Braceletâ featur-ing âthe treasured symbols of Ireland captured in stunning 24 karat gold ac-...
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I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever own. In May 2003 I was walking through Kew Gardensâthe horticultural equiv-alent of the British Museumâwith my English half- sister when we came upon a small ornamental tree. Though a gardenerâlike seemingly every-body else in Englandâshe was unfamiliar with it. I wasnât, but we read the ...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The New Southern Studies