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SAmerican Studies / Literary Criticism / Ethnic Studies / Geography


Regional Fictions
Culture and Identity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Stephanie Foote

"A first-rate work of literary and cultural criticism ."
—Eva Cherniavsky, author of That Pale Mother Rising: Sentimental Discourses and the Imitation of Motherhood In Nineteeth­Century America

Out of many, one—e pluribus unum—is the motto of the American nation, and it sums up neatly the paradox that Stephanie Foote so deftly identifies in Regional Fictions . Regionalism, the genre that ostensibly challenges or offers an alternative to nationalism, in fact characterizes and perhaps even defines the American sense of nationhood.

In particular, Foote argues that the colorful local characters, dialects, and accents that marked regionalist novels and short stories of the late nineteenth century were key to the genre's conversion of seemingly dangerous political differences —such as those posed by disaffected Midwestern farmers or recalcitrant foreign nationals—into appealing cultural differences. She asserts that many of the most treasured beliefs about the value of local identities still held in the United States today are traceable to the discourses of this regional fiction, and she illustrates her contentions with insightful examinations of the work of Sarah Orne Jewett, Hamlin Garland, Gertrude Atherton, George Washington Cable, Jacob Riis, and others. Broadening the definitions of regional writing and its imaginative territory, Regional Fictions moves beyond literary criticism to comment on the ideology of national, local, ethnic, and racial identity.

"Interest in regionalism is on the rise in literary studies and American studies, influenced by cultural geography, and there is a real need for a work that rethinks the genre of regionalist literature and its literary, political, and social importance. Regional Fictions is that book. Its scope and intelligence ensure that it will be widely read."—Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form

Stephanie Foote is assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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The cover of Regional Fictions is blue, with blue and black toned photos of a group of nineteenth century Americans.

April 2001

256 pp.      6 x 9
2 b/w photos

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