English, Department of


Date of this Version



2008 Author(s)


From: Regionalism and the Humanities. ed. Timothy R. Mahoney and Wendy J. Katz Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2008


Complications seem inevitably to arise whenever one tries to define either regionalism in general or any specific region like the South or the Great Plains or to categorize the art and artifacts that come from or relate to that area by means of such language. Commentators occasionally try to take the easy way out of these taxonomic difficulties by simply declaring that “writing is writing,” by which reductive expression they apparently mean that all writing is “universal” in nature (the local manifestation of some “universal language”) and that, therefore, all that varies from “region” to “region” is the inflection. Inflection is a convenient word because it seems to delimit linguistic variation (or other variations) less strictly than words like dialect or idiom. A less immediately diagnostic term, inflection appears to permit a far greater range of localisms within the discourse in question. Even so, it is not convincing that what we usually think of as “regionalisms” (whether in literature, the arts, culture, society, class, or economics) actually amount to little more than differing inflections upon some universal or general language or discourse that is itself associated with a larger and more heterogeneous geographical or cultural entity like a nation, continent, or socioeconomic class. Consequently, this essay represents an attempt to articulate a slightly different perspective upon the matter of regionalism and its slippery definitions. This attempt comes with a significant disclaimer: it does not so much resolve the difficulties as suggest a different and perhaps more constructive way of regarding them.