MFS Modern Fiction Studies
Volume 55, Â Number 1, Â Spring 2009
E-ISSN: 1080-658X Print ISSN: 0026-7724
Regional Modernism and Transnational Regionalism
In lieu of an abstract, here is a preview of the article.
â€œEurope,â€ crowed Iowa-based painter Grant Wood in a lesserknown modernist manifesto, â€œhas lost much of its magic. Gertrude Stein comes to us from Paris and is only a seven daysâ€™ wonder. Ezra Poundâ€™s new volume seems all compound of echoes from a lost world. The expatriates do not fit in with the newer America, so greatly changed from the oldâ€ (19). Woodâ€”he of American Gothic fameâ€”titled his snippy comments Revolt against the City, and in this 1935 essay argued for a quiet revolution that would stymie metropolitan-based modernisms: â€œBut if it is not vocalâ€”at least in the sense of issuing pronunciamentos, challenges, and new credosâ€”the revolt is certainly very active. In literature, though by no means new, the exploitation of the â€˜provincesâ€™ has increased remarkably; the South, the Middle West, the Southwest have at the moment hosts of interpreters whose Pulitzer-prize works and best sellers direct attention to their chosen regionsâ€ (8). â€œBecause of this new emphasis upon native materials,â€ Wood went on to explain, â€œthe artist no longer finds it necessary to migrate even to New York, or to seek any great metropolis. No longer is it necessary for him to suffer the confusing cosmopolitanism, the noise, the too intimate gregariousness of the large cityâ€ (22â€“23).
I do not want to dismiss Woodâ€™s anti-urbanism, his insufferable claims against cosmopolitanism, his social and most likely racial conservatism, and his emphatically American exceptionalism. But I do want to highlight that in the midst of these questionable politics lays an inchoate theory for a â€œregional modernismâ€ decades before the phrase achieved wide currency in academic circles. The term â€œregional modernismâ€ first originated in architecture studies, where it cameâ€” and where it continuesâ€”to characterize building design that opposed the