Chapter

Tonic and Rationale, circa 1908

Emily Satterwhite

in Dear Appalachia

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780813130101
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813135854 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813130101.003.0003
Tonic and Rationale, circa 1908

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Chapter 2 contributes to our understanding of the Progressive Era by illuminating the anxieties of a swath of middle-class Americans whose pursuit of schooling and professional work compelled their social and geographical movement away from the people and places of their childhood. Appalachian studies scholars have pointed out that Kentuckian John Fox Jr.'s fiction inspired feuding hillbilly caricatures that in turn justified industrial exploitation and affirmed national readers' nationalism, racism, and imperialism. On the other hand, boosters hoping to increase the prominence of Kentucky and Virginia have venerated Fox's supposedly sympathetic portrayals of mountaineers. A reader-centered approach confirms that Fox's best-selling The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) offended locals and served the needs of nationally-identified readers. But archived letters also uncover the presence of a set of transitional readers caught between the local and the national due to their geographic and upward mobility. Fox's fan mail suggests that regional fiction served to articulate and foster a sense of homesickness felt by white readers who imagined themselves as having moved up and out of distinctive, familial, vibrant, and backward home places and signals the emergent role of regional fiction in generating regional identity.

Keywords: John Fox Jr.; The Trail of the Lonesome Pine; best sellers; Progressive Era; regional fiction; fan mail; readers; regional identity; Progressive Era; middle class

Chapter.  11114 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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