280 pp., 6 x 9, 17 illus., 2 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index
Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape
The idea of "region" in America has often served to isolate places from each other, observes Douglas Reichert Powell. Whether in the nostalgic celebration of folk cultures or the urbane distaste for "hicks," certain regions of the country are identified as static, insular, and culturally disconnected from everywhere else. In Critical Regionalism, Reichert Powell explores this trend and offers alternatives to it.
Reichert Powell proposes using more nuanced strategies that identify distinctive aspects of particular geographically marginal communities without turning them into peculiar "hick towns." He enacts a new methodology of critical regionalism in order to link local concerns and debates to larger patterns of history, politics, and culture. To illustrate his method, in each chapter of the book Reichert Powell juxtaposes widely known texts from American literature and film with texts from and about his own Appalachian hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee. He carries the idea further in a call for a critical regionalist pedagogy that uses the classroom as a place for academic writers to build new connections with their surroundings, and to teach others to do so as well.
"Offers useful and accessible interpretive tools and a powerful interpretative lens with which to ponder region and culture."
--Journal of American Studies
"If you do not experience Doug Reichert Powell's remarkable skills at close reading for yourself, you are missing out. Critical Regionalism is essential reading for publicly engaged intellectuals anywhere."
--Journal of Appalachian Studies
"An important book."
--Journal of Appalachian Studiesl
"Important to Iowans and anybody else who lives away from centers of national power."
--The Annals of Iowa
"Necessarily suggestive, open-ended, and tentative. . . . Envisions new and utopian possibilities for thought and social action while acknowledging the formidable tactical and theoretical obstacles to such changes."
"[Reichert Powell's] endeavor to uncover a critical regionalist literary aesthetic leads from an examination of the film Pulp Fiction (1994) to literary critiques of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath (1939). . . . Raises important questions for any scholarly understanding of the South as region."
--Journal of Southern History
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