The story of “poor Joanna” in Sarah Orne Jewett’s Country of the Pointed Firs exemplifies “idiorrhythmic regionality”: a conception of regionalism as a transcultural, transnational, and irreducibly cosmopolitan relationality. It juxtaposes fictional Shell-heap Island with its real-life model, the Whaleback shell heap—a large deposit of oyster and clam shells created by many generations of Native American peoples. The Whaleback heap preserves intact the matter lodged within it—including vestiges of natural, prehistoric, and Native American life accumulated over a millennium. In this way, it figures as a unique archival mechanism that assembles in a single place seemingly incongruous temporalities and forms of life whose spatiotemporal coexistence disrupts evolutionary distinction, ontological priority, and historical linearity. Embedding Joanna in the scientific debates and corporate decisions surrounding the Whaleback’s constitution and destruction reformulates traditional definitions of literary regionalism, and postulates idiorrhythmic relationality as a novel theory of region.


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pp. 87-118
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