Walking Distance: Navigation, Epiphany, and Memory in American Small-Town Fiction

The navigation of the physical small-town space triggers memories, emotions, and other physiological responses that help narrate and give shape to localised communities. The act of walking can be epiphanic and cathartic, it can geographise and shape the vast topography of American regions, and, in the texts concerned with small-town America, it becomes a vital signifier not simply of life, but of living. Continue reading

‘Women of Genius’: The ‘Revolt from the Village’ in Mary Austin and Willa Cather’s Fiction

The American small-town has long been a telling index of American cultural identity and a genesis site for prevailing hegemonic ideologies, but many writers of the interwar period began a narrative iconoclasm of the small-town idyll. The Midwestern authors Edgar Lee Masters, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis, to name but three, destabilised the myth of the utopian small-town and instead rendered such spaces as provincial, lonesome, and conservative enclaves from which one must flee. This article contends that, between Mary Austin’s A Woman of Genius (1912) and Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark (1915), a distinctly female ‘revolt’ lineage becomes apparent. Continue reading

1919: the Boston Molasses Flood and the Year of Violence and Disillusion

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Boston Molasses Flood, arguably one of the strangest disasters in American history. Twenty-one people died, 150 were injured, and homes and buildings were destroyed. In the midst of the after-math of World War I, Calvin Coolidge assumed the role of Governor of Massachusetts, and in doing so he inherited the responsibility of Boston, a city that was in the midst of social and economic crisis. The Molasses Flood only served to heighten feelings of unease, with some of Boston’s leading figures and its media looking to place blame, with anarchists and communists heading the list of potential suspects. Ultimately, the Molasses Flood was a preamble for a year of upheaval in Boston that would see widespread violence, acts of terrorism, and a historic police strike. This article looks briefly at the events of that fateful day on January 2, 1919 and its impact. Continue reading

Book Review: Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City by Michael Woodsworth

In recent years Brooklyn has become trendy. While the intertwined forces of displacement and gentrification have reshaped only select areas of Brooklyn, there can be no question that the national and international reputation of New York City’s most populous borough has been thoroughly transformed.
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