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.