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James Still's "River of Earth" or the Appalachian Arcadian World

Abstract : An underappreciated classic novel by James Still (1906-2001), River of Earth (1940) 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 of Kentucky’s heritage, its regional perspective is explored with a universal touch. “Et in Appalachia Ego”: this misappropriation of the old emblem is intended to posit the intricate feelings implicit in the phrase that define Still’s art. His works of fiction can be considered as historical and sociological records of a bygone era. Although James Still is acutely aware of his Southern nature in a changing society, he writes out of a deep sense of place, not about it. The regional materials exposed in River of Earth do not tie him to his region; they are neither deliberate nor stagnant but authentic and natural for a noble cause. Endowed with a 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, happiness, 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 tension between pastoral and tragedy that revision the pastoral aesthetics. 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 questions of existence and happiness. Permeated with a legitimate universal validity, they have profound implications for every man, in every time, and every place.
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Contributor : Gisèle Sigal Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, October 31, 2022 - 10:57:49 PM
Last modification on : Monday, November 7, 2022 - 5:24:34 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-03835617, version 1



Gisèle Sigal. James Still's "River of Earth" or the Appalachian Arcadian World. AFEA America in the Works, Jun 2017, Strasbourg, France. ⟨hal-03835617⟩



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