Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 26:1 (Winter 2006) Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Although it has everything to do with location, nineteenth-century American literary regionalism is nor "about" natural geographic boundaries, according to Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse. That is, issues of vantage point, marginalization, and gender and racial positioning are crucial to this literature, and the lens of feminist standpoint theory brings it sharply into focus. In contrast, the habit of categorizing by setting - Sarah Orne Jewett and the Maine coast or Mary Austin in the California desert - suggests geographic determinism and distracts us from what these writers might have in common: regionalism as "a discourse or a mode elf analysis" and "a location for critique and resistance." Once we understand this, we can define nineteenth-century regionalism more meaningfully, read regionalist works more knowledgeably, and see their political and philosophical implications more clearly. To support their argument, Fetterley and Pryse draw on decades of work in feminist criticism and American literary regionalism. The result is an important, thought-provoking book that challenges readers to re-examine values and ways of reading that have dominated the field of American literature. So-called "minor literatures" are vital because they "can offer alternative ways of knowing that 'take place,' become located or regionalized, in the gaps within ideology."