By Douglas L. Mitchell
In the overdue 19th century, because the examine of historical past shifted from the area of letters into the social sciences, novelists within the North and the West typically became clear of writing historical past. Many southern novelists and poets, although, persisted to adopt old writing as an extension in their artwork shape. What made southern literary figures fluctuate from their northern and western opposite numbers? In A traumatic and Alien reminiscence, Douglas L. Mitchell addresses this fascinating query by way of 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 provide an explanation for" drove a few artistic writers to proceed to make forays into heritage and biography to be able to input a extra public sphere the place they can extra decisively impression interpretations of the earlier.
In the Romantic heritage of the 19th century, Mitchell explains, males of letters observed themselves as keepers of reminiscence whose renderings of the previous might support 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 starting to be 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 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 put in writing blacks into the yank tale.
Moving into the 20th century, Mitchell analyzes the ancient component to the Southern Agrarian venture, targeting the stress among modernist aesthetics and polemical goals in Allen Tate's Civil struggle biographies. He then lines a course towards a achievable ancient imaginative and prescient, Robert Penn Warren's restoration of a sad realizing, and the construction of a compelling historic paintings within the paintings of Shelby Foote. all through, Mitchell examines the odd hindrance of southern writers, the altering nature of historical past and its relation to the world of letters, and the query of public authority, laying off mild on numerous overlooked texts within the strategy -- 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 standpoint on a perennial debate in southern letters, A irritating and Alien reminiscence presents a severe framework for a missed 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)
After describing the French defeat at Ravenna, Simms writes of the French in a way that presages generations of southern chroniclers of the lost ideal to come: “All that remained to them . . was the glory of Gaston de Foix and the famous deeds of Bayard. These make their monuments, and fill their chronicles, and furnish them with models and with morals, which have endured, perhaps equally for good and for evil, for successive centuries” (304). In the same year Simms published Bayard (1847), South Carolinians were stung by an assault upon the state’s honor that would destroy any remaining consensus on the question of the nation’s origin and destiny, Lorenzo Sabine’s Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution.
He warned the Alabama undergraduates attending his lecture “The Social Principle” in 1842, after surveying the remarkable progress of the region from his first visit, “Your prosperity is the due result of whatsoever degree of thought has been expended upon your progress, and whatever mea- 22 A DIS T U R BING A N D A L I E N M E MORY sure of energy has been concentrated upon the plans and purposes of your intellect. . ”15 Mind, for Simms, is intimately bound up with the spirit of a people, and the integrity of that cultural identity was precisely what was threatened by expansion; “the wandering habit of our people” had led to a dissolution of home and hearth, the traditions of the people.
Marion, facing no such conflict, provides the perfect example of the visionary man of action who is at one and the same time a leader of the people and their finest expression. As the culture shaped Marion’s character, so the people preserved his fame through legend and tale in the absence of official records, and Simms presents his history as an extension of their work of memory. “‘Marion’s Brigade’ and ‘Marion’s men,’ have passed into household words, which the young utter with an enthusiasm much more confiding than that which they yield to the wondrous performances of Greece and Ilium,” he tells us (10).
A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing History (Southern Literary Studies) by Douglas L. Mitchell