Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston

Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston

Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston

Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston

Synopsis

"Lillian Smith, Ellen Glasgow, Eudora Welty, Lillian Hellman, Katherine Anne Porter, and Zora Neale Hurston are distinctly varying and individual writers of the American South whose work is identified with the Southern Literary Renaissance. This intertextual study assesses their autobiographical writings and their intellectual stature as modern women of letters. It is the first to include these writers in the socio-history of modern southern feminism and the first to group them in the discourse of modern American liberalism. In the confessional tract Killers of the Dream (1949, 1961) Smith's focus upon ethics, racism, and sexism rather than upon conventional southern themes sharply disrupts the ideology of conservative forces in the mainstream of southern literary criticism. In Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir dominant themes from Smith's autobiography are synthesized as other liberal feminine voices in the chorus of southern memoirs examine norms of gender, problems of race, and patriarchal power structures. Ellen Glasgow's The Woman Within (1954) and Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings (1984) center on the woman writer's inner life and demonstrate the legitimacy of making this life the object of public attention. Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time (1976) and Katherine Anne Porter's The Never-Ending Wrong (1977) define the individual in conflict with reactionary forces in modern America. In Dust Tracks on a Road (1942, 1984) Zora Neale Hurston connects the problems of gender, region, nation, and race. By stressing the significance of a liberal tradition in southern women's autobiographical writings, Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir reconceptualizes the role of the southern woman of letters and her contributions to the literature of the modern South." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In 1972 Eudora Welty was asked by the Paris Review if she "ever felt part of a literary community, along with people like Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Katherine Anne Porter or Caroline Gordon?" Welty's response was what might have been expected: "I'm not sure there's any dotted line connecting us up, though all of us knew about each other and all of us, I think, respected and read each other's work and understood it. And some of us are friends of long standing. I don't think there was any passing about of influences, but there's a lot of pleasure in thinking in whose lifetimes your own lifetime has happened to come along" (Prenshaw, Conversations 80-81). Welty is right: there is no one line of development, but, rather, many lines, many patterns, and many points of intersection. Borrowing Welty's metaphor, my overriding aim in this study is to connect some of the more significant "dots" -- Welty herself, Ellen Glasgow, Lillian Hellman, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Smith, and Zora Neale Hurston -- through an intertextual examination of selected nonfiction prose that acknowledges each writer's distinctiveness and changing perspectives over a lifetime.

Chapter 1 defines the sociohistorical role of the woman of letters in the twentieth-century South; it also explores the ways in which her work has been marginalized by recent intellectual histories.

Chapter 2 explains the significance of Lillian Smith and what I call her confessional tract, Killers of the Dream (1949; revised in 1961). Smith represents a sharp disruption of a conservative critical agenda that has dominated most appraisals of twentieth-century southern writ-

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