Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Native Ground

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Native Ground

Article excerpt


As between clear blue and cloud, Between haystack and sunset sky, Between oak and slated roof, I had my existence. I was there. Me in place and the place in me.

--Seamus Heaney, "A Herbal"

For the past twenty years, I have made a career as a teacher of American literature. For the last twelve, I have worked also, with equal seriousness and passion, as a photographer.

My new series, Native Ground, unites these pursuits in an exploration of the Role place plays in shaping the literary imagination: the notion that writers compose out of a peculiar understanding and depth of connection to physical space, remembered or immediate.

Personal and professional interests have led me to focus on writers who have lived and worked in the southern region of the United States. After all, if convention has it right, these are writers who bear something close to a genetic predisposition to produce a literature suffused with place. It seems to me that Eudora Welty is right in saying that "of all the arts, [writing] is the one least likely to cut the cord that binds it to its source" ("Place in Fiction," On Writing [Modern Library Edition, 2002], 42). …

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