Mark Storey, "Country Matters: Rural Fiction, Urban Modernity, and the Problem of American Regionalism" (pp. 192––213)
This essay intervenes in the critical debates surrounding nineteenth-century American regionalism, arguing that such debates have tended to ignore the possibility of a shared and trans-regional category of "rural fiction." Developing this notion, I suggest that literary representations of rural life in the late nineteenth century are a crucial and neglected way of understanding the geographically indiscrete transformations of urban-capitalist modernity. Further, by examining these transformations through the prism of rural fiction, we can challenge the urban-centric tendency of postbellum American literary history. Drawing on several writers who have been the focus of much of critics' attentions on regionalism (Edward Eggleston, Hamlin Garland, and Sarah orne Jewett in particular), this essay considers both the generic and thematic instabilities of rural fiction, arguing that these instabilities serve to encode and refract the social and cultural context from which this fiction emerges. Reading rural fiction against the background of the increasing similarities between geographically distinct areas of rural life, and reconsidering many of the works that we currently gather under the regionalist rubric as, instead, rural, a distinct perspective can be gained on the standardizing and flattening processes of modernity itself.
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