Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letters from the South, Written During an Excursion in the Summer of 1816 by James Kirke Paulding

This book recounts James Kirke Paulding's trip through Virginia in 1816. It has both his observations of the area and its people and his reflections on the origins and practices of the region. There are quite a few tangents. The book is very interested in smoothing over regional differences--not to say that they don't exist, but to contend that they don't matter in comparison to the need of greater national unity: Paulding contends that if Americans only really understood each other, they wouldn't disagree and push for disunion.

The Real South: Southern Narrative in the Age of Cultural Reproduction by Scott Romine

In this book Scott Romine investigates the question of what constitutes the "real" South in the context of so many competing stories and narratives. He concludes that both "real" and "South" are terms that have little meaning without quotation marks--that is, spending a lot of time on figuring out what is "authentic" or "traditional" is less valuable than assessing how these cultural productions function. There are good readings of a variety of texts, ranging from Gone with the Wind to Roots to Daughters of the Dust to Dip's (a restaurant in Chapel Hill) to Confederates in the Attic to A Turn in the South. Finally Romine concludes that "my South" is always tenuous and dependent on who's talking, but that these overlapping Souths are more realistic and accurate than any single solid South could be.