Access your Project MUSE content using one of the login options below Close(X)
Browse Results For:
Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities in Harper Lee’s Novel
How often does a novel earn its author both the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to Harper Lee by George W. Bush in 2007, and a spot on a list of “100 best gay and lesbian novels”? Clearly, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning tale of race relations and coming of age in Depression-era Alabama, means many different things to many different people. In Mockingbird Passing, Holly Blackford invites the reader to view Lee’s beloved novel in parallel with works by other iconic American writers—from Emerson, Whitman, Stowe, and Twain to James, Wharton, McCullers, Capote, and others. In the process, she locates the book amid contesting literary traditions while simultaneously exploring the rich ambiguities that define its characters. Blackford finds the basis of Mockingbird’s broad appeal in its ability to embody the mainstream culture of romantics like Emerson and social reform writers like Stowe, even as alternative canons—southern gothic, deadpan humor, queer literatures, regional women’s novels—lurk in its subtexts. Central to her argument is the notion of “passing”: establishing an identity that conceals the inner self so that one can function within a closed social order. For example, the novel’s narrator, Scout, must suppress her natural tomboyishness to become a “lady.” Meanwhile, Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, must contend with competing demands of thoughtfulness, self-reliance, and masculinity that ultimately stunt his effectiveness within an unjust society. Blackford charts the identity dilemmas of other key characters—the mysterious Boo Radley, the young outsider Dill (modeled on Lee’s lifelong friend Truman Capote), the oppressed victim Tom Robinson—in similarly intriguing ways. Queer characters cannot pass unless, like the narrator, Miss Maudie, and Cal, they split into the “modest double life.” In uncovering To Kill a Mockingbird’s lively conversation with a diversity of nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers and tracing the equally diverse journeys of its characters, Blackford offers a myriad of fresh insights into why the novel has retained its appeal for so many readers for over fifty years. At once Victorian, modern, and postmodern, Mockingbird passes in many canons.
Frances Goodrich’s Mountain Homespun—with intriguing elements of travel book, folklore study, sociological tract, “local color” fiction, and personal memoir—is an account of one of the earliest programs to revive mountain crafts. Goodrich, educated at the Yale Art School, started out as a religious social worker and was assigned by the Presbyterian Home Missions to Buncombe and Madison counties in North Carolina. Her book tells of the early days of Allanstand Cottage Industries, one of the first of the handicraft revival programs. Mountain Homespun provides information about the processes and the meaning of traditional mountain crafts that is not to be found anywhere else. Goodrich touches on basketry, quilting, and other crafts, but her focus is on weaving, spinning, and dyeing. Of particular interest is her information about how to read weaving drafts—recipes for the spreads—with their marks that tell the weaver how to thread the loom and in which order to “tramp” the pedals. As Jan Davidson’s introduction shows, Goodrich’s work was not initially intended to preserve mountain crafts, but to use them for social and economic purposes as part of a campaign to “uplift” the mountain people. Hers was a cultural intervention of massive proportions that changed the methods of production, the materials, the tools, the motives of the workers, and, eventually, who was doing the work. The story told in Mountain Homespun sheds light on what happens when urban intellectuals intervene in the folk process—and what the intervention does to the folk and the objects they make. Mountain Homespun is thus not only essential for those who would understand the history of such organizations as the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, but instructive for cultural workers as well as today’s buyers of “mountain crafts.”
How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along
World War II shaped the United States in profound ways, and this new book--the first in the Legacies of War series--explores one of the most significant changes it fostered: a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious tolerance. A Nation Forged in War is the first full-length study of how large-scale mobilization during the Second World War helped to dissolve long-standing differences among white soldiers of widely divergent backgrounds.
Never before or since have so many Americans served in the armed forces at one time: more than 15 million donned uniforms in the period from 1941 to 1945. Thomas Bruscino explores how these soldiers' shared experiences--enduring basic training, living far from home, engaging in combat--transformed their views of other ethnic groups and religious traditions. He further examines how specific military policies and practices worked to counteract old prejudices, and he makes a persuasive case that throwing together men of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and classes not only fostered a greater sense of tolerance but also forged a new American identity. When soldiers returned home after the war with these new attitudes, they helped reorder what it meant to be white in America.
Using the presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as bookend events, Bruscino notes a key change in religious bias. Smith's defeat came at the end of a campaign rife with anti-Catholic sentiment; Kennedy's victory some three decades later proved that such religious bigotry was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Despite such advances, Bruscino notes that the growing broad-mindedness produced by the war had limits: it did not extend to African Americans, whose own struggle for equality would dramatically mark the postwar decades.
Extensively documented, A Nation Forged in War is one of the few books on the social and cultural impact of the World War II years. Scholars and students of military, ethnic, social, and religious history will be fascinated by this groundbreaking new volume.
The Life and Work of a Southern Ruralist Writer, Harry Harrison Kroll
Known for his sometimes-gritty naturalism and use of Appalachian dialect, Harry Harrison Kroll (1888–1967) was a remarkably prolific Tennessee novelist and short-story writer during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His career spanned two of the three major shifts in publishing during the twentieth century: the heyday and decline of the fiction magazine market during the late 1920s, and the rise of nonfiction and solidification of paperback marketing during the 1950s. Never Been Rich explores details of Kroll’s humble, rural youth, his long delayed education and the development of his craft, before discussing his lengthy career and how it reflected changes in both public taste and the American publishing industry. Kroll focused on writing not as a high art, but instead on what was popular—what would earn him a living. He preferred to write voluminously rather than exquisitely, and growing up in the rural south provided him with a broad and fertile field of experience to plow for his crop of stories. As a writing instructor, he had a profound influence on his students, particularly the well-known Appalachian triumvirate of James Still, Jesse Stuart, and Don West. While Kroll may lack grand literary significance, Richard Saunders maintains that we should explore not merely the linguistic and thematic aspects of a writer’s work but also its broad economic and social contexts, including the idea that literature is both an art form and a marketable product in an extensive industry. His study of Kroll delves deeply into those contexts and shows that, while Kroll did not strive for a place among writers of high literature, he exemplifies the far more widely read popular literature of his times.
The first African American to publish a book on any subject, poet Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784) has long been denigrated by literary critics who refused to believe that a black woman could produce such dense, intellectual work, let alone influence Romantic-period giants like Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson once declared that “the compositions published under her name are below dignity of criticism.” In recent decades, however, Wheatley’s work has come under new scrutiny as the literature of the eighteenth century and the impact of African American literature have been reconceived. In these never-before-published essays, fourteen prominent Wheatley scholars consider her work from a variety of angles, affirming her rise into the first rank of American writers. The pieces in the first section show that perhaps the most substantial measure of Wheatley’s multilayered texts resides in her deft handling of classical materials. The contributors consider Wheatley’s references to Virgil’s Aeneid and Georgics and to the feminine figure Dido as well as her subversive critique of white readers attracted to her adaptation of familiar classics. They also discuss Wheatley’s use of the Homeric Trojan horse and eighteenth-century verse to mask her ambitions for freedom and her treatment of the classics as political tools. Engaging Wheatley’s multilayered texts with innovative approaches, the essays in the second section recontextualize her rich manuscripts and demonstrate how her late-eighteenth-century works remain both current and timeless. They ponder Wheatley’s verse within the framework of queer theory, the concepts of political theorist Hannah Arendt, rhetoric, African studies, eighteenth-century “salon culture,” and the theoretics of imagination. Together, these essays reveal the depth of Phillis Wheatley’s literary achievement and present concrete evidence that her extant oeuvre merits still further scrutiny.
Cultures and Conquests in the Early American Southeast
From the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, the American Southeast was the scene of continuous tumult as European powers vied for dominance in the region while waging war on Native American communities. Yet even before Hernando de Soto landed his expeditionary force on the Gulf shores of Florida, Native Americans had created their own “cultures of violence”: sets of ideas about when it was appropriate to use violence and what sorts of violence were appropriate to a given situation. In New Worlds of Violence, Matthew Jennings offers a persuasive new framework for understanding the European–Native American contact period and the conflicts among indigenous peoples that preceded it. This pioneering approach posits that every group present in the Southeast had its own ideas about the use of violence and that these ideas changed over time as they collided with one another. The book starts with the Mississippian era and continues through the successive Spanish and English invasions of the Native South. Jennings argues that the English conquered the Southeast because they were able to force everyone else to adapt to their culture of violence, which, of course, changed over time as well. By 1740, a peculiarly Anglo-American culture of violence was in place that would profoundly influence the expansion of England’s colonies and the eventual southern United States. While Native and African violence were present in this world, they moved in circles defined by the English. New Worlds of Violence concludes by pointing out that long-lasting violence bears long-lasting consequences. An important contribution to the growing body of work on the early Southeast, this book will significantly broaden readers’ understanding of America’s violent past.
In December 1846, John Jacob Oswandel—or Jake as he was often called—enlisted in the Monroe Guards, which later became Company C of the First Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Thus began a twenty-month journey that led Oswandel from rural Pennsylvania through the American South, onward to the siege of Veracruz, and finally deep into the heart of Mexico. Waging war with Mexico ultimately realized President James K. Polk’s long-term goal of westward expansion all the way to the Pacific Ocean. For General Winfield Scott, the victorious Mexico City campaign would prove his crowning achievement in a fifty-three-year military career, but for Oswandel the “grand adventure of our lives” was about patriotism and honor in a war that turned this twenty-something bowsman into a soldier. Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, is the quintessential primary source on the Mexican War. From Oswandel’s time of enlistment in Pennsylvania to his discharge in July of 1848, he kept a daily record of events, often with the perception and intuition worthy of a highly ranked officer. In addition to Oswandel’s engaging narrative, Timothy D. Johnson and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr. provide an introduction that places Oswandel’s memoir within present-day scholarship. They illuminate the mindset of Oswandel and his comrades, who viewed the war with Mexico in terms of Manifest Destiny and they give insight into Oswandel’s historically common belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority—views that would bring about far worse consequences at the outbreak of the American Civil War a dozen years later. As historians continue to highlight the controversial actions of the Polk administration and the expansionist impulse that led to the conflict, Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, opens a window into the past when typical young men rallied to a cause they believed was just and ordained. Oswandel provides an eyewitness account of an important chapter in America’s history.
Narratives of White Southern Identity, 1890–1920
Southerners have a reputation as storytellers, as a people fond of telling about family, community, and the southern way of life. A compelling book about some of those stories and their consequences, One Homogeneous People examines the forging and the embracing of southern “pan-whiteness” as an ideal during the volatile years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.
Trent Watts argues that despite real and signi?cant divisions within the South along lines of religion, class, and ethnicity, white southerners—especially in moments of perceived danger—asserted that they were one people bound by a shared history, a love of family, home, and community, and an uncompromising belief in white supremacy. Watts explores how these southerners explained their region and its people to themselves and other Americans through narratives found in a variety of forms and contexts: political oratory, fiction, historiography, journalism, correspondence, literary criticism, and the built environment.
Watts examines the assertions of an ordered, homogeneous white South (and the threats to it) in the unsettling years following the end of Reconstruction through the early 1900s. In three extended essays on related themes of race and power, the book demonstrates the remarkable similarity of discourses of pan-whiteness across formal and generic lines. In an insightful concluding essay that focuses on an important but largely unexamined institution, Mississippi’s Neshoba County Fair, Watts shows how narratives of pan-white identity initiated in the late nineteenth century have persisted to the present day.
Written in a lively style, <i>One Homogeneous People</i> is a valuable addition to the scholarship on southern culture and post-Reconstruction southern history.
Trent Watts is the editor of White Masculinity in the Recent South. His work has appeared in <i>Southern Cultures</i> and T<i>he New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture</i>. He is assistant professor of American studies at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
An African American Writer's (Re)Visionary Gospel of Success
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins was perhaps the most prolific black female writer of her time. Between 1900 and 1904, writing mainly for Colored American Magazine, she published four novels, at least seven short stories, and numerous articles that often addressed the injustices and challenges facing African Americans in post–Civil War America. In Pauline Hopkins and the American Dream, Alisha Knight provides the first full-length critical analysis of Hopkins’s work. Scholars have frequently situated Hopkins within the domestic, sentimental tradition of nineteenth-century women's writing, with some critics observing that aspects of her writing, particularly its emphasis on the self-made man, seem out of place within the domestic tradition. Knight argues that Hopkins used this often-dismissed theme to critique American society's ingrained racism and sexism. In her “Famous Men” and “Famous Women” series for Colored American Magazine, she constructed her own version of the success narrative by offering models of African American self-made men and women. Meanwhile, in her fiction, she depicted heroes who fail to achieve success or must leave the United States to do so. Hopkins risked and eventually lost her position at Colored American Magazine by challenging black male leaders, liberal white philanthropists, and white racists—and by conceiving a revolutionary treatment of the American Dream that placed her far ahead of her time. Hopkins is finally getting her due, and this clear-eyed analysis of her work will be a revelation to literary scholars, historians of African American history, and students of women’s studies.