The Narrative Forms of Southern Community

By Howard, Catherine E. | The Journal of Southern History, August 2001 | Go to article overview

The Narrative Forms of Southern Community


Howard, Catherine E., The Journal of Southern History


The Narrative Forms of Southern Community. By Scott Romine. Southern Literary Studies. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c. 1999. Pp. [xiv], 226. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-8071-2527-X; cloth, $49.95, ISBN 0-8071-2401-X.)

Community and narrative are two key elements in defining southern identity. In The Narrative Forms of Southern Community, Scott Romine takes on the task of exploring the way narrative not only defines but creates community, paying special attention to the differences and their meanings in real and perceived communities. With close examinations of representative works by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, John Pendleton Kennedy, Thomas Nelson Page, William Alexander Percy, and William Faulkner, Romine investigates various aspects of narrative's role in forming community, specifically regarding the two fundamental southern problems of class and race. Romine addresses the basic problem of the myth of paternalism among members of particular social groups and the curious life of its own that the myth engenders. Essentially, at the same time that the rhetoric of community attempts to defer any threat toward the "autochthonous ideal" to an extracommunal boundary, the narrative of community will not allow it to do so (p. 15). Thus, the community produced by rhetoric and the community produced by narrative differ. Some social groups have a vested interest in retaining certain fantasies, specifically paternal myths, while others would benefit from an objective social definition that is, of course, impossible to obtain.

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