Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-8r8mm Total loading time: 0.226 Render date: 2021-12-01T13:30:30.991Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Chapter 5 - “Democracy in literature”?

Literary regionalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Phillip J. Barrish
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Get access

Summary

“Sally Parson’s Duty,” a short story by Rose Terry Cooke, appeared in the Atlantic Monthly’s debut issue of November 1857, almost ten years before the young William Dean Howells would begin his official association with the magazine. Cooke’s story opens, “The sun that shines on Eastern Massachusetts …” The first bit of dialogue a reader encounters is spoken by ’Zekiel Parsons, who addresses an old friend: “I expect, Long, you sailors hev a drefful hard, onsartain time navigatin’, don’t ye?” (24). In specifying from the start the region in which her story will occur (not simply Massachusetts, but Eastern Massachusetts) and in using non-standard phonetic spelling and symbols such as apostrophes (even in ’Zekiel’s name) to convey not only what her rural characters say but what they sound like, Cooke immediately marks the story as belonging to an emerging genre in the United States, known at the time as local color and subsequently also called regionalism (we will return to the question of nomenclature below). Put simply, a local-color or regionalist story is one in which place – that is, the story’s geographic setting – not only serves as background but also plays a prominent role in the story’s foreground. A reader is always aware of the setting: it becomes an inextricable part of the story’s texture, influencing such elements as plot, theme, atmosphere, characterization and characters’ speech. Local-color settings, moreover, are usually depicted as someplace outside the mainstream, at a distance from national centers of financial, political, or cultural power.

Though local-color fiction was being written and published at least twenty-five years before a self-conscious movement for literary realism existed in the United States, it enjoyed its greatest public and critical success in the 1870s and 1880s during the period when literary realism became prominent. In those post-Civil War decades, younger writers such as Mary Murfree (who used the pseudonym Charles Egbert Craddock), Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Hamlin Garland moved away from the local-color genre’s antebellum association with humorous stereotypes and aligned their own regionally focused writing with realist principles as they were being practiced by figures such as Howells. Sarah Orne Jewett, for example, told her readers in 1877 that to enjoy her portrayal of “a quiet old-fashioned country town” on the Maine coast, they must care to look closely at “every-day life,” and take “an instinctive, delicious interest in what to other eyes is unflavored dullness” (Novels and Stories (Deephaven) 37).

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
1
Cited by

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×