By Douglas L. Mitchell
In the overdue 19th century, because the examine of heritage shifted from the area of letters into the social sciences, novelists within the North and the West in most cases became clear of writing background. Many southern novelists and poets, despite the fact that, persevered to adopt old writing as an extension in their artwork shape. What made southern literary figures vary from their northern and western opposite numbers? In A irritating and Alien reminiscence, Douglas L. Mitchell addresses this fascinating query by means of 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 give an explanation for" drove a few inventive writers to proceed to make forays into background and biography on the way to input a extra public sphere the place they can extra decisively effect interpretations of the previous.
In the Romantic heritage of the 19th century, Mitchell explains, males of letters observed themselves as keepers of reminiscence whose renderings of the previous may well support form the way forward for the state. He explores the old writing of William Gilmore Simms to track the failure of Romantic nationalism within the transforming into cut up among North and South, then turns to Thomas Nelson Page's attempt to resurrect the South as a "spiritual state" with a redeemed background after the Civil struggle. Mitchell juxtaposes their paintings with that of William Wells Brown, the pioneering African American historian and novelist who used the authority of background to jot down blacks into the yankee tale.
Moving into the 20 th century, Mitchell analyzes the old section of the Southern Agrarian venture, concentrating on the strain among modernist aesthetics and polemical goals in Allen Tate's Civil battle biographies. He then strains a course towards a workable ancient imaginative and prescient, Robert Penn Warren's restoration of a sad figuring out, and the production of a compelling old artwork within the paintings of Shelby Foote. all through, Mitchell examines the unusual challenge of southern writers, the altering nature of heritage and its relation to the area of letters, and the query of public authority, laying off gentle on a number of overlooked texts within the approach -- 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 worrying and Alien reminiscence presents a severe framework for a ignored style within the southern literary canon.
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Extra resources for A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing History (Southern Literary Studies)
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). This idealized vision leads Simms to rhetorical flights so reminiscent of medieval romance as to be indistinguishable from his later treatment of the good knight Bayard. We are told, for instance, that prior to his encounter with the Cherokee, Marion “had yet to flesh his maiden valor upon the enemy” (33). Simms uses the chivalric rhetoric to set Marion apart from the cruelty and excesses of the times, as exemplified by Tarleton and the Tories on the one hand and backcountry rebels on the other: “No single specification of cruelty was ever alleged against the fair fame of Francis Marion” (144).
24 This was the opening salvo in a war of words that would lead to Preston Brooks’ employment of his cane in the Senate chambers, and in the midst of the controversy was William Gilmore Simms, writing in his capacity as South Carolina’s leading historian. 25 Romantic history demanded a rough consensus on national values and character and a sense of common origin. While there certainly had been disagreement from the earliest days of the Continental Congress over the question of slavery, a sense of common purpose had united first the colonies and then the states, a sense of a common destiny as a nation and a shared love of liberty: blood from Vermont to Georgia had mingled in the Revolutionary struggle.
Weems is the people’s historian, writing out of and for the popular imagination, but Simms at W IL L I A M G IL MOR E SI M MS A N D T H E FA ILU R E OF ROM A N T IC HIS TORY 27 several points faults his lack of respect for the facts and his twisting of Marion’s essential character and the concrete historical situation for the sake of a successful formula. Judge James, on the other hand, produced a factually accurate account, but “as a literary performance, it is quite devoid of merit as pretension” (viii).