JON SMITH AND DEBORAH COHN
Introduction: Uncanny Hybridities
Lwhite
ong before American studies began to abandon
monolithic formulations of Americanness,
U.S. southerners were justly question-
ing such narratives of U.S. identity as fictions imposed by a rich, imperial,
white Northeast. As Allen Tate famously put it in his 1945 essay ‘‘The New
Provincialism,’’ ‘‘not even literary nationalism could abort a genuine
national literature when it is ready to appear; when, in fact, we become a
nation’’ (536). C. Vann Woodward would argue fifteen years later in The
Burden of Southern History that ‘‘the South had undergone an experience
that it could share with no other part of America—though it is shared by
nearly all the peoples of Europe and Asia—the experience of military
defeat, occupation, and reconstruction’’ (190). Yet these and other domi-
nant, oppositional constructions of southern identity o√ered by white
male southerners, from the Confederate flag to (until the past decade or
so) the canon of southern literature, themselves constitute exclusionary
and exceptionalist myths: imagining unique ligatures between the South
and the Old World, they figure (white) southern culture and history as a
corrective to the provincial hubris of the imperial United States.
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