A Disturbing and Alien Memory: Southern Novelists Writing by Douglas L. Mitchell

By Douglas L. Mitchell

In the past due 19th century, because the learn of heritage shifted from the area of letters into the social sciences, novelists within the North and the West commonly grew to become clear of writing historical past. Many southern novelists and poets, besides the fact that, persevered to adopt old writing as an extension in their artwork shape. What made southern literary figures range from their northern and western opposite numbers? In A hectic and Alien reminiscence, Douglas L. Mitchell addresses this interesting 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 shield the South and the oft-noted "rage to provide an explanation for" drove a few artistic writers to proceed to make forays into background and biography so one can input a extra public sphere the place they can extra decisively effect interpretations of the prior.

In the Romantic heritage of the 19th century, Mitchell explains, males of letters observed themselves as keepers of reminiscence whose renderings of the prior may perhaps support form the way forward for the kingdom. 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 heritage after the Civil battle. Mitchell juxtaposes their paintings with that of William Wells Brown, the pioneering African American historian and novelist who used the authority of heritage to put in writing blacks into the yankee tale.

Moving into the 20 th century, Mitchell analyzes the ancient part of the Southern Agrarian undertaking, targeting the strain among modernist aesthetics and polemical goals in Allen Tate's Civil battle biographies. He then lines a direction towards a doable old imaginative and prescient, Robert Penn Warren's restoration of a sad realizing, and the production of a compelling historic artwork within the paintings of Shelby Foote. all through, Mitchell examines the unusual quandary 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 gentle on numerous 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 standpoint on a perennial debate in southern letters, A nerve-racking and Alien reminiscence presents a severe framework for a ignored style within the southern literary canon.

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Of course, it was an age of great designs, and Simms is careful to distinguish the noble motives of Smith from those of most of his contemporaries. However much he might praise Smith, Simms certainly does not gloss over the more troubling aspects of Virginia’s founding. The frontier, in Simms’s age as well as Smith’s, could bring out the worst as well as the best aspects of human character. Of the New World generally, Simms writes, “To the boy-dreamer about Arcadia and the golden age, it offered all that imagination could conjecture and Astraea could supply.

Sabine, a Maine politician and historian, enhanced the laurels of New England by arguing that “the adherents of the crown were more numerous at the South and in Pennsylvania and New York, than in New England,” directing his scorn particularly at South Carolina. 40 A DIS T U R BING A N D A L I E N M E MORY “It is hardly an exaggeration to add,” Sabine writes, “that more Whigs of New England were sent to . . ”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.

A sovereign by the appointment of nature,” but they realize that his character stands in the way of their personal designs for power and wealth: “The world-man cordially hates the God-man, and will destroy him if he can” (105). Smith’s main occupation in Virginia was “to protect the greater number of his followers from themselves,” and Simms’s indictment of them reads much like his comments on contemporary Charleston and the South. The early Virginians were lazy malcontents who were unwilling to change even when stasis meant destruction, and Smith acted repeatedly (in his own account as in Simms) to force them to provide for their own survival and eventual prosperity.

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