Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Term applied to literature which emphasizes a special geographical setting and concentrates upon the history, manners, and folkways of the area as these help to shape the lives or behavior of the characters. It generally differs from local color in that it lays less stress upon quaint oddities of dialect, mannerisms, and costume and more on basic philosophical or sociological distinctions, which the writer often views as though he were a cultural anthropologist. One major form of regionalism flourished in the South, particularly among the Agrarians of the 1920s and '30s. Its adherents contended that their ideas were based on a creative, scientific approach to the cultural, geographic, and economic differences of particular sections of the U.S. This detached view necessitated scholarly antiquarianism in studying the relation of folklore to literature, and led away from realism toward a critical interpretation of historical backgrounds. Allen Tate, one of its proponents, declared, “Only a return to the provinces, to the small self-contained centres of life, will put the all-destroying abstraction America safely to rest.” Tate collaborated with J. C. Ransom, Donald Davidson, and R. P. Warren in publishing The Fugitive (1922–25) and the symposia I'll Take My Stand (1930), Culture in the South (1934), and Who Owns America? (1936). These works assert that as people adapt their lives to the geography of a region and create an economic system that gradually becomes natural, this pattern in turn becomes aesthetic. Their program was intended to combat the Northern drive toward industrializing the South, which would have made for eclecticism and standardization; to champion an agrarian economy; and, as Davidson said, to “speak for the South as a living historic entity which is separate from America though bound to it.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.