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Geographies of Race, Region, and Literature

Thadious M. Davis

Publication Year: 2011

By interpreting segregation as the central experience for twenty-first century southern literature (just as slavery was for an earlier generation of writers) and by theorizing the interconnected aspects of racial and spatial constructions in the formation of the nation, Davis shows us a way to understand black space--social, spatial, and artistic arenas of creativity--not just in terms of exclusion and of pushing back/reacting against, but as sites of memory and imagination far beyond wounds and danger. Looking inside the boundaries of segregation, Davis charts the trajectory from modernism to postmodernism in the works of Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines, Natasha Trethewey, Olympia Vernon, Brenda Marie Osbey, Sybil Kein, and Shay Youngblood. This analysis, working at the intersection of race, gender, place, and region, will likely become a standard work in new southern studies.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-ix

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INTRODUCTION: A Map of the Territory

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pp. 1-21

In “Entering the South,” Lucille Clifton transmutes the stark geographic metaphor that often appears as the landscape of the South for African Americans. The map she draws is a living one, alive in memory and in blood, but dead too in the literal skin of animals and in the material body of the mother. Luxury,...

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CHAPTER 1. Southscapes: Race, Region, & Reclamation

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pp. 23-76

One of Marion Post Wolcott’s most recognizable photographs bears the description: Negro Going in Colored Entrance of Movie House on Saturday Afternoon, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi.1 The subject is a dramatic interplay of light and shadows, of sharp angles and flat surfaces, but more it is...

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CHAPTER 2. Poverty & Porches: Controversial Mississippi

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pp. 77-133

“If South is a perspective as well as a direction, then the Mississippi Delta may well be the most southern place on earth,” Endesha Ida Mae Holland writes in the prologue to From the Mississippi Delta: A Memoir (1997).1 Her return to Greenwood, Mississippi, for a celebration of her achievement in arts and letters...

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CHAPTER 3. Power & Profession: Richard Wright’s Mississippi & Its Expatriate Legacies

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pp. 135-184

In a speech presented on 2 June 1939, Langston Hughes told the Third Annual Writers’ Congress: “It is hard for a Negro to become a professional writer. Magazine offices, daily newspapers, publishers’ offices are tightly closed to us in America.”1 This assessment by the major black writer in America at the...

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CHAPTER 4. Politics & Paysans: Multicultural Louisiana & the Space of the Créolité

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pp. 185-255

Any space occupied by people of African descent in the United States is contested. Escape to other places inevitably becomes marred by the floating signifiers of U.S. racial-spatial ideology, as Richard Wright discovered in the mid-twentieth century. Retracing Wright’s footsteps, Shay Youngblood...

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CHAPTER 5. Parishes & Prisons: Ernest Gaines’s Louisiana & Its North Carolina Kin Space

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pp. 257-334

For Kein, there is little escape from the haunting legacy in Louisiana of “the perversion of color / as hoax, as cannon, as / dominion over the oneness / of all souls.”2 Creoles of Color “culled dignity / from a fragile freedom,” she recalls, and generations later, after emancipation, after Reconstruction, after...

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CHAPTER 6. Alice Walker Matters: The Fruits of Gendered Space

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pp. 335-374

Alice Walker, that famous spirited Georgia native, certainly does not need a rehabilitation of her reputation. Yet, as I have been thinking about Southern Studies and scholarly production, I began to notice that Walker has slipped out of recent discourses and that her contribution to the ways in which we...

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pp. 375-376

This book has benefited from many generous friendships, old and new, professional and personal. In Nashville, Art and Helene Pellette, with Mary Elizabeth and Leah, enabled my work and dual residence with their care and commitment; Bill and Cecelia Tichi, David and Leah Marcus, and Sam and Scottie Girgus fed the body and the...


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pp. 377-410


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pp. 411-433


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pp. 435-458

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602554
E-ISBN-10: 1469602555
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807835210
Print-ISBN-10: 0807835218

Page Count: 456
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- African American authors.
  • American literature -- Southern States.
  • Geographical perception in literature.
  • African Americans -- Race identity.
  • Place (Philosophy) in literature.
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