mercredi 23 février 2011

Alessandro Portelli, THE TEXT AND THE VOICE; WRITING, SPEAKING, AND DEMOCRACY IN AMERICAN LITERATURE, New York, Columbia University Press, 1994, 415 p

Regionalism and local color, according to [Hamlin] Garland, mean that artists spontaneously reflect the life surrounding them. Since life is different in each part of the country, each place will leave its dictinct mark and "utter its own voice." Regionalism, however, insists on claiming the national function of rooting general identity in the heart of partiality, making decentralization a constant impulse throughout the history of American literature. "The 'great American novel'... is appearing in sections," Eggleston suggested, as a mosaic of stories and local differences: an idea that Dos Passos takes literally, in the great work of montage he calls U.S.A.
Localism, then, becomes an ironic extension of the nationalist vector of independence as separation; arguments in favor of local literature repeat those in favor of national literature against British models. "New York, like Boston, is too near London," garland complained. For the Kentucky poet George Ella Lyon, the difference between "Appalachian" and "bluegrass" within her own state lies on the same continuum as that between "American" and "English."
Regionalism, therefore, becomes central and problematic in the context of national identity crises such as the Civil War or the Depression, when efforts to contain all of America within the covers of one book, as Whitman had done, seem to fly apart (just as ethnicity will be central and problematic in the crisis of the 1960s, after Berkeley, Watts, and Vietnam). But this centrifugal impulse also contains its opposite: a search within each fragment for America's essential unity. The universal and national values, lost or degraded in the cities, are preserved intact in the industrious frugality, the democratic individualism, the wholesome irreverence of the provincial experience.
(p. 206-207)

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