Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies

By Wise, Benjamin E. | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies


Wise, Benjamin E., The Journal of Southern History


Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies. By Jon Smith. The New Southern Studies. (Athens, Ga., and London: University of Georgia Press, 2013. Pp. [xviii], 176. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-4526-0; cloth, $69.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-3321-2.)

Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies is addressed primarily to literary critics who practice in the field of southern studies. This field is divided into two camps, the "new southern studies" and the "old southern studies" (pp. ix-x). According to Jon Smith, the latter group is composed of aging white baby boomers who have too long been committed to a theory and a practice of southern studies that is narcissistic and driven by melancholia rather than a desire to observe the world "in its senseless actuality" (p. xi).

Though Smith's audience is likely to be mainly literary critics, readers of this journal might consider the usefulness of his critique for the field of southern history as well. His argument is this: people who study the South have long brought to their work fantasies about what the South is, and these fantasies have prevented them from truly understanding their subject. Borrowing from marketing theorist Douglas B. Holt, Smith calls these fantasies imaginary "populist worlds," identity myths that have been produced and consumed by scholars for decades (p. 9). "The South" has been less a real place to study than an ideological vessel into which scholars have placed "our libidinal investments, our enjoyment" (p. 4). The problem? "You cannot act reasonably," Smith says, "if your actions are overdetermined by fantasy" (p. 9).

Smith analyzes the way South-observers so often articulate their fantasies about the region in the mode of grief and melancholy--that the South used to be something real (a community, a place, a culture, and so on), but that authentic (even if part evil) thing has been disrupted by industrialization or immigration or mechanization or some such historical force, and lost forever. This sense of loss and the attendant desire to understand it, Smith notes, is precisely what the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan would have called "the drive," which is a problematic motivation for scholars, because, as Slavoj Zizek explained, "'the drive's ultimate aim is simply to reproduce itself'" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.