By Douglas L. Mitchell
In the past due 19th century, because the examine of background shifted from the area of letters into the social sciences, novelists within the North and the West commonly became clear of writing heritage. Many southern novelists and poets, even though, persevered to adopt historic writing as an extension in their paintings shape. What made southern literary figures vary 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 protect the South and the oft-noted "rage to provide an explanation for" drove a few artistic writers to proceed to make forays into heritage and biography so as to input a extra public sphere the place they can extra decisively impression interpretations of the prior.
In the Romantic heritage of the 19th century, Mitchell explains, males of letters observed themselves as keepers of reminiscence whose renderings of the earlier may possibly aid form the way forward for the country. He explores the ancient writing of William Gilmore Simms to track the failure of Romantic nationalism within the becoming break up among North and South, then turns to Thomas Nelson Page's attempt to resurrect the South as a "spiritual state" with a redeemed historical past after the Civil conflict. 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 yankee tale.
Moving into the 20th century, Mitchell analyzes the old part of the Southern Agrarian venture, concentrating on the strain among modernist aesthetics and polemical goals in Allen Tate's Civil conflict biographies. He then lines a course towards a doable old imaginative and prescient, Robert Penn Warren's restoration of a sad figuring out, and the construction of a compelling historic paintings within the paintings of Shelby Foote. all through, Mitchell examines the bizarre obstacle of southern writers, the altering nature of heritage and its relation to the area of letters, and the query of public authority, laying off mild on numerous missed texts within the method -- 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 viewpoint on a perennial debate in southern letters, A tense 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)
Bayard lived in a time of deceit and treachery, 38 A DIS T U R BING A N D A L I E N M E MORY when the spirit of chivalry had ebbed and he was the last bloom, “the fairest flower of knighthood,” on a withering vine. As Simms writes in the opening passage: “It was a time when chivalry was at its lowest condition in Christian Europe; when the fine affectations of the order, erring always on the side of generosity and virtue—its strained courtesies, its overwrought delicacies, its extravagant and reckless valor—every thing, in short, of that grace and magnanimity which had constituted its essential spirit and made of it a peculiar institution—had given way to less imposing and less worthy characteristics” (1–2).
Before Smith returns to England and sets out for the new continent, his career is interrupted by a period of slavery in the hands of the Turks, and significantly—considering that he is dealing here with the man responsible for the first settlement of what will become a unique modern slave society—Simms goes into some detail regarding Smith’s period of bondage. Smith is captured and sold in the slave markets of Axiopolis to a Turk and given to the man’s “faire mistress,” Charatza Tragabigzanda. Simms, in history or fiction, cannot pass a good love story by, but here the story is of slave and mistress, and he goes so far as to compare Smith’s account to the story of Othello, indirectly introducing the specter of race into the equation.
Simms dwells at some length on Marion’s Huguenot ancestry and the honorable role the Huguenots have played in South Carolina. Simms, like Carlyle or Emerson, sees the hero as emerging from the people, as the finest expression of their essential character. In praising the Huguenots, Simms praises a distinctive strain in the racial mix of South Carolina. They were a “much better sort of people than those who usually constituted the mass of European immigrants” and, “though a gentle race, were men of soul and strength, capable of great sacrifices, and protracted self-denial” (13–14).
A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing History (Southern Literary Studies) by Douglas L. Mitchell