English Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014

Publication Source

Arizona Quarterly


One of the difficulties in using regionalism as a descriptive category to discuss late nineteenth-century literature is the series of shifting relationships it has with other terms describing literary production. Not only is there regionalism’s implied connection to realism, there is naturalism, romance, and even local color to consider, if one desires to distinguish between types of regional literary production. Added to this initial framework are the unspoken assumptions concerning intersecting definitions of generic form: the novel is implicitly connected to realism (and later naturalism), while the short story is traditionally associated with regionalism. Further complicating both sets of terms is the implied hierarchical relationship between the realist novel and the publishing industry on the one hand, and the regionalist short story and periodical culture on the other. Collectively, these terms create a series of unequal and asymmetrical relationships that, while informing our current discussions of literature, also exert unseen influence on those debates, primarily because they are more often silently perpetuated than consciously recognized. This essay will not necessarily resolve these issues; I do not intend to do away with my critical predecessors, or offer a newer and, by proxy, better theoretical framework to explain the difficulty of negotiating literary form and history. Rather, my interest is in the ways the silent relationships informing discussions of late nineteenth-century literature— silent because those in the present are no longer directly privy to the debates of the past—continue to impact contemporary critical analysis of these literary categories.

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