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.
Book Review: Liam Kennedy, Afterimages: Photography and U.S Foreign Policy
The distance between global politics and its mediation to the individual is perhaps as proximal as it has ever been in our current moment, where information technologies and social media reduce the disconnect and render world crises as visible, immediate concerns. Photography, as the most readily-available and instant of all digital visual technologies, sits at the heart of how geopolitics and, specifically, conflict are culturally consumed. Such ideas are brought to the fore in Liam Kennedy’s latest publication Afterimages: Photography and U.S Foreign Policy (2016), in which he recounts American foreign policy, from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror, through the lens of photographic mediation.
Book Review: Nathanael T. Booth, American Small-Town Fiction, 1940-1960
From Disneyland’s ‘Main Street, USA’ to the historical living-history museum of Colonial Williamsburg, the small town has always held a mythic allure in the American cultural imaginary. For purveyors of commercial and cultural ideology, such as Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Norman Rockwell, it is a sacrosanct place of American innocence. For other artists and social commentators, however, such as Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and H. L. Mencken, the small-town is an enclave of conservatism, insularity, and backwardness. In his new publication, American Small-Town Fiction, 1940-1960, Nathanael T. Booth assesses these ideological vagaries through the focalised study of mid-twentieth century American literature, arguing that the small-town is vital to ‘America’s self-fashioning’ (1) of a democratic centre that is characterised through changing modalities of nostalgia, utopia, isolation, and melancholy.
‘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.