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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter employs recent approaches to the study of world literature to offer a new reading of nineteenth-century American regionalism. The huge body of texts usually included in the regional or “local-color” genre often take rural communities as both subject matter and foregrounded setting, communities that are held in a structurally “peripheral” position within the combined and uneven world economy of the late nineteenth century. This chapter argues that such a position is registered in the genre’s distinctive oscillation between realist and “irrealist” literary modes—between the professionalized and ascendant cultural standard of the core and the persistence of nonrealist generic devices and registers. Calling on two of the genre’s quintessential representatives, Hamlin Garland and Sarah Orne Jewett, the chapter ultimately makes a case for reading local-color writing as a form of (semi)peripheral realism within world literature’s expanded geographical and temporal horizons.

Keywords: world-system, world literature, regionalism, local color, Hamlin Garland, Sarah Orne Jewett, irrealism

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