After Southern Modernism: Fiction of the Contemporary South by Matthew Guinn

By Matthew Guinn

The literature of the modern South may perhaps top be understood for its discontinuity with the literary earlier. At odds with traditions of the Southern Renascence, southern literature of this day sharply refutes the Nashville Agrarians and stocks few of Faulkner's and Welty's matters approximately position, group, and background.

This sweeping research of the literary South's new course specializes in 9 good tested writers who, via breaking clear of the firmly ensconced myths, have emerged as an iconoclastic new release- -- Harry Crews, Dorothy Allison, Bobbie Ann Mason, Larry Brown, Kaye Gibbons, Randall Kenan, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, and Barry Hannah. Resisting the modernist equipment of the earlier, they've got proven their very own postmodern flooring past the shadow in their predecessors.

This shift in authorial viewpoint is an important indicator of the way forward for southern writing. Crews's seminal position as a ground-breaking "poor white" writer, Mason's and Crews's portrayals of rural existence, and Allison's and Brown's frank portrayals of the decrease type pose a problem to standard depictions of the South. The dissenting voices of Gibbons and Kenan, who specialize in gender, race, and sexuality, create fiction that's right away identifiably "southern" and likewise pretty subversive. Gibbons's iconoclastic stance towards patriarchy, just like the outsider's critique of neighborhood present in Kenan's paintings, proffers a portrait of the South extraordinary within the region's literature. Ford, McCarthy, and Hannah each one strategy the South's conventional notions of heritage and group with new irreverence and deal with prevalent southern themes in a extraordinarily postmodern demeanour. even if via Ford's regularly occurring customer panorama, the haunted netherworld of McCarthy's southern novels, or Hannah's riotous burlesque of the Civil struggle, those authors assail the philosophical and cultural foundations from which the Southern Renascence arose.

Challenging the normal conceptions of the southern canon, it is a provocative and cutting edge contribution to the region's literary learn.

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The notion of choice that Rubin discerns at the heart of Agrarianism is entirely absent here. In its place is a routinely hostile cosmos much like that of Frank Norris or John Steinbeck, in which humanity is buffeted by external forces that continually threaten disaster. Accordingly, Crews's people are un- 11 The Poor South of Harry Crews and Dorothy Allison able to determine their fates within this environment. Their courage, then, is not a virtue deriving from bucolic fulfillment but a survival skill, a product of something close to evolutionary adaptation to the rural milieu.

For Couch, the Agrarian myth was deflated by the question, "Who receives the much prized virtue of farming? " (426). Crews's answer is emphatically negative for the people of his class. The "virtue" of the agricultural life is a perquisite solely of the landowner, who avoids the meanest farm labor and thus has the privilege of interacting with the soil "by proxy"—a distance more conducive to the conception of a humanistic agrarianism (425). If the Agrarians misinterpreted the rural experience, they did so because of the very abstraction they loathed.

As Crews relates, all of the children in Bacon County received government commodities at school, a fact that "may seem strange to those who have a singularly distorted understanding of the rural Southerner's attitude toward charity" and who do not know "what it meant to be forever on the edge of starvation" (133). " The "singularly distorted" idea of rural southerners and charity derives from the stereotypes produced by the limited perspective of the pastoral mode. Uninformed of the plight of poor southerners, the pastoral mode (and Agrarianism in particular) clings to notions of the rugged, self-reliant farmer.

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