Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture

Article excerpt

Review: Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture By Anthony Wilson Reviewed by Kathy Piselli Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, USA Anthony Wilson. Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. 232 pp. ISBN: 1-57806-804-5 (cloth) $US45.00

Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture mixes literary history, folk history and popular culture with literary analysis. If you can get past the academic tone you will find fun material as author Anthony Wilson, Assistant Professor of English at LaGrange College and self-described "conservationist and cultural critic," travels through time to illustrate the changing meaning of the swamp in American culture. His focus is literature, but he covers film and broader cultural and political issues as well. He looks at the swamp from the point of view of different populations: the southern white aristocracy, southern African-Americans, Creoles, Cajuns, and southern Native Americans.

Early attitudes toward swamps were colored by what can only be called regional chauvinism. There are many swampy places along the Atlantic seaboard, but while a northern swamp might be a pretty cranberry bog, southern swamps were thought of as malarial and frightening. The same negative viewpoint, though, meant different things to different people: wealthy opportunists sought to buy low, then drain swamps for economic benefit, while the dispossessed - slaves, Indians, and poor whites - sought to hide in them.

Four literary periods are considered, starting from the dawn of the southern U.S. identity, to the "Postmodern" at the dawn of the modern environmental movement. The reader finds that attitudes toward the swamp continue through history to follow or shape southern culture. …

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