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A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing by Douglas L. Mitchell

By Douglas L. Mitchell

In the past due 19th century, because the research of heritage shifted from the area of letters into the social sciences, novelists within the North and the West often became clear of writing historical past. Many southern novelists and poets, despite the fact that, endured to adopt old writing as an extension in their paintings shape. What made southern literary figures fluctuate from their northern and western opposite numbers? In A demanding and Alien reminiscence, Douglas L. Mitchell addresses this fascinating query through tracing a line of southern writers from the early 19th century to the mid-twentieth, discovering that an obsessive have to shield the South and the oft-noted "rage to give an explanation for" drove a few artistic writers to proceed to make forays into heritage and biography for you to input a extra public sphere the place they can extra decisively impact interpretations of the earlier.

In the Romantic background of the 19th century, Mitchell explains, males of letters observed themselves as keepers of reminiscence whose renderings of the prior may possibly aid form the way forward for the state. He explores the ancient writing of William Gilmore Simms to track the failure of Romantic nationalism within the turning out to be cut up among North and South, then turns to Thomas Nelson Page's attempt to resurrect the South as a "spiritual country" with a redeemed heritage after the Civil battle. Mitchell juxtaposes their paintings with that of William Wells Brown, the pioneering African American historian and novelist who used the authority of background to write down blacks into the yank tale.

Moving into the 20th century, Mitchell analyzes the ancient element of the Southern Agrarian undertaking, targeting the strain among modernist aesthetics and polemical goals in Allen Tate's Civil struggle biographies. He then lines a direction towards a doable old imaginative and prescient, Robert Penn Warren's restoration of a sad realizing, and the construction of a compelling old paintings within the paintings of Shelby Foote. all through, Mitchell examines the abnormal quandary of southern writers, the altering nature of historical past and its relation to the area of letters, and the query of public authority, laying off gentle on numerous missed texts within the procedure -- together with Simms's The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, S.C., Brown's The Negro within the American uprising, Tate's Jefferson Davis, and Warren's John Brown.

Offering a brand new point of view on a perennial debate in southern letters, A stressful and Alien reminiscence presents a severe framework for a ignored style within the southern literary canon.

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Additional resources for A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing History (Southern Literary Studies)

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In the decline of life, in the modest condition of the farmer, Marion seems to have lived among his neighbors very much as an ancient patriarch, surrounded by his flock” (344)—the patriot becomes the 32 A DIS T U R BING A N D A L I E N M E MORY patriarch. 21 From Marion in the Revolutionary period—the shared origin of the United States—Simms turns to Captain John Smith in the period of exploration as he seeks to establish a southern claim on American origins. If Marion embodied, for Simms, the best of Old and New World virtues, Captain Smith quite literally spanned the two continents at the time of first settlement.

Marion becomes a symbol of the continuity of ancient European traditions in a new historical moment, striking the perfect balance between civilization and frontier. Simms focuses on the character of Marion throughout his biography, not as something evolving but (as we have seen above) formed by his community in his early years and determining his later actions in all circumstances. He is a highly idealized figure, one of those “perfect characters . . the beautiful symmetry of whose moral structure leaves us nothing to regret in the analysis of his life” (20).

Simms goes on to further emphasize the representative character of the leader, and he does so in a way that bears particular relation to Simms’s own situation as a public intellectual and advocate of change in Charleston and the South. One even senses the ghost of his wandering father haunting the following passage and hints of his attempt to overcome his problematic relationship to Charleston in his effort to identify himself with South Carolina through his prophetic vocation as man of letters: “He will represent that society rather than his immediate family, as it is the nature of superior minds to rush out of the narrow circles of domestic life; and .

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