Reconstructing race and region : toward a literary desegregation of the modern south, 1890-1940

Diamant, Gena McKinley, Department of English, University of Virginia
Ayers, Ed, Department of History, University of Virginia
Lott, Eric, Department of English, University of Virginia
Feldman, Jessica R., Department of English, University of Virginia
Nudelman, Franny, Department of English, University of Virginia

This study juxtaposes the literary careers of several black and white Southern authors who wrote between 1890-1940, a stretch of history marked by extreme social and political segregation - what the historian Grace E. Hale has called the "culture of segregation." The writers considered here (Charles Chesnutt, Ruth McEnery Stuart, William Faulkner, James Weldon Johnson, Margaret Mitchell, and Zora Neale Hurston) explored similar issues of race, region, and gender from this shared context, but developments in the history of literary criticism, which mirrored the biases of a segregated society, have prevented comparative readings of their work. This literary "deĀ¬ segregation" does more than merely put black and white writers from the past onto the same page. It contributes to the revision of an historically white "sacred" Southern canon, and by extension enriches our understanding of American literature as a whole; it revisits and refreshens several stale, traditionally Southern literary themes and figures, such as the plantation myth, the "tragic mulatto" character, attachment to the land, and nostalgia for the past; it reconfigures a host of familiar dichotomies, including black/white, North/South, male/female, and public/private; and it traces the interrelatedness of race, region and gender as significant axes of identity within the culture of segregation. Above all, it reveals that Southern literature, like the South itself, is a constantly evolving, imaginary space - a reflection of the myriad voices that keep creating it.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:20.

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