Nineteenth-Century Southern Women Writers: Grace King and Modernism

1st Edition

Melissa Walker Heidari, Brigitte Zaugg

August 12, 2019 Forthcoming
Reference - 200 Pages
ISBN 9780367349295 - CAT# K441456
Series: Routledge Studies in Nineteenth Century Literature


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The essays in this book explore the role of Grace King’s fiction in the movement of American literature from local color and realism to modernism as her work exposes a post-bellum New Orleans that is fragmented socially, politically, and linguistically. Melissa Walker Heidari’s introduction offers a review of scholarship on King’s fiction and a discussion of King’s awareness of her place in literary movements; she examines selections from King’s journals as views into her journey toward a modernist aesthetic – what King describes in one passage as "the continual voyage I made." Sirpa Salenius sees King’s fiction as a challenge to dominant conceptualizations of womanhood and a reaction against female oppression and heteronormativity. Ralph J. Poole analyzes King’s "An Affair of the Heart" to show her use of a rhetoric of excess that reveals a scenario of social satire which debunks sexual and racial double standards. Ineke Bockting views King as a modernist writer through a stylistic analysis which explores spacial, temporal, biological, psychological, social, and racial liminalities in the text. Françoise Buisson demonstrates that King’s fiction "is inspired by the Southern oral tradition and goes beyond this tradition by taking on a theatrical dimension,both metafiction and metatheatre, that can be quite modern and even experimental at times." Kathie Birat claims that it is important to underline King’s relation to realism, "for the metonymic functioning of space as a signifier for social relations is an important characteristic of the realist novel."  Stéphanie Durrans analyzes "The Story of a Day," as an incest narrative and focuses on King’s development of a modernist aesthetics to serve her terrifying investigation into social ills as she probes the inner world of her silent character. Amy Doherty Mohr explores intersections in King’s fiction between regionalism and modernism in public and silenced histories and the treatment of myth and mobility. Brigitte Zaugg examines in "The Little Convent Girl" King’s presentation of the figure of the double and the issue of language as well as the narrative voice, which, she argues, "definitely inscribes the text, with its understatement, economy and quiet symbolism, in the modernist tradition." Miki Pfeffer closes the collection with an afterword in which she offers excerpts from King’s letters as encouragement for "scholars to seek Grace King as a primary source," arguing that "Grace King’s own words seem best able to dialogue with the critical readings herein." Each of these essays enables us to see King’s place in the early moments of the uncertain and often disputed construction of modernity; each illuminates the "continual voyage" that King made.

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