Mapped out in the South against the Backdrop of Wider Horizons: James Still’s River of Earth - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2017

Mapped out in the South against the Backdrop of Wider Horizons: James Still’s River of Earth

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Gisèle Sigal

Abstract

River of Earth (1940), an underappreciated classic novel, offers a brilliant and moving yet unsentimental depiction of the Appalachian region and its people at the turn of the twentieth century. More than an account or a mere record of Kentucky’s heritage, its regional perspective is explored with a universal touch. Place actually underpins James Still’s (1906-2001) works of fiction that can be considered as historical and sociological records of a bygone era. Indeed, the writer is acutely aware of his Southern nature in a changing society pervaded with economic transformations. Nonetheless, he writes out of a deep sense of place, not about it. The regional materials exposed in the diegesis do not tie him to his region; they are neither deliberate nor stagnant but authentic and natural for a noble cause. Endowed with symbolic title, the narrative epitomizes a human approach to reach the truth of one’s destiny; it excels in its psychological dimension and brings to light the triumph of the human mind; eventually, Still willingly participates in its basic demand essentially in love with order, simplicity and unity. Familiar motifs thread through the book: the journey of discovery, the exploration of a simple time and space, and the strong evocation of landscape amidst sufferings, deprivations, and adversity. This essay will explore the masterpiece’s regional components in the tradition of Southern literature towards new horizons. Through a close examination of the writer’s techniques, we will then approach the underpinning core values such as love, simplicity, humility, courage and endurance that transfigure the novel into a work of art. Eventually, this paper will focus on Still’s position on the basic questions in life and on the possible solutions to the question of existence. Permeated with a legitimate universal validity, it has profound implications for every man, in every time, and every place.
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Dates and versions

hal-02326639 , version 1 (22-10-2019)

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  • HAL Id : hal-02326639 , version 1

Cite

Gisèle Sigal. Mapped out in the South against the Backdrop of Wider Horizons: James Still’s River of Earth. “Facets of the South” - Southern Studies Forum Conference, Gérald Préher, Sep 2017, Lille, France. ⟨hal-02326639⟩

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