This course examines the persistence of regionalism in American fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will look at how regionalism works at times as an assertion of local distinctiveness against the threat of national homogeneity, at others as an assurance of national unity in the face of inter-sectional or inter-ethnic strife, and at still others as a form of cosmopolitan longing for a simpler, pre-modern past.
The course will be divided into two large units, each bookended by the dislocations of the American Civil War and World War Two, but located in very different regional imaginaries. First, we'll consider the permutations of regional writing in three generations of professional women writers who read and admired each other's work: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Willa Cather. Then we will turn to the reinventions of southern life in work by writers like Charles Chesnutt, Thomas Nelson Page, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner.
In order to help guide our discussions, we will also view several contemporary films, likely John Sayles's Lone Star and Spike Lee's Bamboozled, and read critical essays by Richard Broadhead, Judith Fetterley, and Henry Louis Gates. Course requirements will include occasional 1-page response papers, a midterm paper, and a final essay.