Sunday, August 26, 2012

Michael Kreyling--Inventing Southern Literature (1998)

Despite the fact that I'm knee-deep in exam-writing (and full of hurricane anxiety), I'm still reading to finish up my lists.  This book in particular is coming in quite handy.  However, because I'm focusing on exam writing, this summary is not up to my usual standards of summaries--I just wanted primarily to get the significant quotes recorded.

Right now, I'm at 28 days before the essays are due!

Kreyling’s book is “a consideration of the ways and means by which southernness has come into being and been sustained there, along with the attempt to measure how and why the meaning of the term has changed over time” (169).  He relies upon Benedict Anderson’s concepts of nationhood in order to explain how the South understands itself.  Unlike Patricia Yaeger’s later work, in this work he says that this text is “not a counternarrative that seeks to dynamite the rails on which the official narrative runs; rather, it is a metanarrative, touching upon crucial moments when and where the official narrative is made or problematically directed” (ix). 
In his discussion of the Agrarians and the formation of the southern canon and southern studies which put Quentin Compson and Faulkner at the center, he notes that putting Quentin at the center is the result of “the legion of white males who have assumed responsibility for inventing a style for thinking of the South.”  I’m particularly interested in his discussion of feminist responses:
Feminist critics are not unanimous on an alternative to the Quentin thesis.  Some, like Carol S. Manning, might he called moderates: Manning points  out the defects in the Quentin position but wants to preserve the status quo  long enough to modify it for the admission of southern women's fiction (Manning   i-i2). A little to the left are critics like Susan V. Donaldson and Anne  Goodwyn Jones, who would like to modify the meaning of "history" in the  prevailing southern formula (usually along lines of Foucaultien "genealogy")  and, thus, run southern women's history into the mainstream at an angle”  (Donaldson i77ff). 
He goes on:
More extreme is the position of southern lesbian critic Mal, Segrest, who  would have community admit neither men nor their history: "For there have  always been Southern women who knew that they did not want to join the  white men in Mississippi for anything; who have known that WE did not  lose the war" (Segrest 29-3o; emphasis in original). Segrest's view represents  the most radical denial of the Quentin thesis, and it is not merely a matter  of polemic. Her reading of the figure of the spinster (like Jones's reading of  the southern-woman-as-author, but more radically) breaks the hold of the  consensus in thematic literary readings: "The other terrible absence in male-dominated   fictions is the absence of female community, or even its possibility. In all the stories I described [Ahsalom, Absalom!, "A Rose for Emily,"  "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe," and "Good Country People"[, the spinster was  ;clone, set apart from both amen and married women. The small-town communities   within the fictions showed complete lack of support for female self-identification.   Without either respect for female solitude or the presence of  female community', of course spinsters were seen as freaks (Segrest 35).
Segrest's critique fractures the ideal of community by alleging that representations   of it have been unreflectingly male As I have argued just above,  Simpson's reading of Roberts could fall under this indictment. If Segrest's  image of community is as narrow from the feminist side as any might he from  the male, it is nevertheless provocative. In her "fable" of becoming it southern   writer, exclusion from "the community" is double. She dates her initiation   to the moment when she spied, from it distance, the black children who  were integrating her school in the Alabama of George Wallace: "I have it  tremendous flash of empathy, of identification, with their vulnerability and  their aloneness inside that circle of force Ithe white males of the Alabama  Highway I'atroll. Their separation is mine" (Segrest, 20). Segrest, establishing   another ideological center, uses the vocabulary of the former center-race   and community identification-to make herself it southern (woman)  writer. Extending and "outing" Lillian Smith's deconstruction of the southern   imaginary, Segrest links southern women writers in shared consciousness  of exclusion from it constructed center.
What the Quentin-based canon formation leads to is blindness to the kinds of female community which exist in the work of southern women writers, and the kinds of women who are estranged from these communities.  I particularly like Kreyling’s observation that while Flannery O’Connor’s comment on the centrality of Faulkner to southern studies originally referred to him as the “Dixie Limited,” her comment was quickly changed to be understood as the “Dixie Special.” 
If one looks at the work of southern women’s writing, one sees different kinds of commentaries on not only community, but the work of race within these communities:
Eli:abeth Jane Harrison reads the "other" narrative as a version of the  more familiar pastoral. Her reading of recent fiction by southern women,
black and white, arrives at it kind of utopian community: "Despite difficulties   in overcoming the harriers to sex and race equality, female friendship  and cooperative communities become an important part of the new southern   garden for these women authors" (Harrison i4-15). Harrison's guide is  Nina Auerhach's Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (tg78), it work  that is both about utopian communities of women in fiction and the product  of the author's own personal experience of "a model community of women  Ithe Radcliff Institute and its Fellows] who gave a local habitation to the  Utopias I read about" ("Acknowledgments," n.p.). Female textual utopias  exist, for Auerbach, in it ghostly relationship with the male, public community   of history: "The communities of women which have haunted our literary   imagination from the beginning are emblems of female self-sufficiency  which create their own corporate reality, evoking both wishes and fears" (5).  These wishes and fears are sexual, political, social, and historical; they are  "voiced" in a "code" that, unlike the male code, is "a whispered and it fleeting   thing, more it buried language than a rallying cry" (y). For it lesbian  critic like Segrest, burial is deep and the code sexually complex. For critics  like Donaldson, Manning, and Jones the "silenced" voices are still audible in  the Quentinian din.
As Segrest suggests in her memory of identifying with the black children  who integrated her school, experiences of racial exclusion may serve as metaphors   of sexual exclusion. The historical trajectory of African-American  women's writing, from the slave narratives of the nineteenth century to their  "recovery" by Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker, suggests a common  cause. The household, sexual politics of slavery produced in the community  of women, across racial boundaries, a lively code, open to many and sometimes   contradictory meanings. As Harriet Beecher Stowe would have it in  Uncle Tom's Cabin, black and white women-though unequal- conununi-  cated in the channel of domestic management and sentiment. Chloe and  her mistress bond against Mr. Shelby's purely economic decision to sell Tom  and Eli:a and her son. Eli:a Harris and Mrs. Bird openly conspire to circumvent   the public code-the Fugitive Slave Law thematically presented as a  male language. In texts by African-American women who were slaves, Harriet   Jacobs being the most prominent example, conversation within sexual  territory but across the racial barrier is more subtle. Sometimes, in Jacobs'.  narrative, the lines hold, and sometimes they Freak down.
Solid or breakable, conversation in overlapping racial and sexual channels  is vital to an understanding of the African-American woman's image of community as well as to the white southern woman's imagined community. The  classic of the first half of this century, Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching  (;od (1y37), is almost universally acknowledged as an encoded text on the  formation of an African-American woman's community evolving from heterosexual,   social dependence on black men into a very strong community of  women that, according to Marjorie Pryse, "recreates the tradition of female  friendship and shared understanding and heals the lingering impact of separation   imposed by slavery and sexism" (t 5). Rather than attempt to occupy  the discourse of history, from which black American women have been excluded   even more thoroughly than white women, African-American women  writers (with Hurston as the twentieth-century leader) have unearthed the  buried languages of African-American folk traditions and community (2-4).  The result, for its late in the century, is that in African-American women's  writing, history is nearly abolished. Alice Walker's The Color Purple (1982)  is the most famous text in which "black history becomes firmly rooted in the  network of female friendship" (Pryse 20) and, thereby is removed from male  control.
Kreyling’s analysis of Smith’s Oral History does a good job of showing how this novel exemplifies these differences.  For example, he observes that, “Dory is horn at the center of it community   the male literally cannot register because that community is in its  very constitution beyond his "history." (loc 1775-6)  Also, “Oral History signifies on traditional images of the origin and nature of  southern community in history, even as it pleads for a redefinition of community   in the woman's register.” 
Kreyling’s discussion of race in this work is quite interesting.  He says that, “bypassing of the traditional reading of the tragedy of race in the southern  narrative and suggests that it might always have been, as Welty', feminine  eye had seen in Delta Wedding, it learned pattern of male imitation, not an  essential tragedy of the community as it living whole.”  Even more importantly is his observation that “Lillian Smith, before Fried Green Tomatoes, and Dorothy  Allison in Bastard out of Carolina ( 1092) since, have used the same coupling  of sexual abuse with racial terrorism to stigmatize the male community.”  He also looks at the centrality of women’s lives to history; in Jill McCorkle’s work, for example, “pregnancy and birth  are shown to be at the center of the process of identity making. Men are irrelevant   after impregnation.”
Ultimately, he concludes that
What is powerful in the fiction of contemporary white southern women is their common, if not concerted, challenge to the Quentin thesis. It is not  that the prevailing literary historical and critical apparatus is or must he, in all instances, totally dismembered but rather that it must be seen as man-made,   the product not only of a time and a social condition (though that  would he had enough When the assertions are of "transcendent" meaning)  but of gender too. Through the heyday of "modern" southern writing, from the 1920s, of the renaissance, through various announcements of its end, to  the prophecy of a second rebirth by those who look to the African-American  male writer as savior rather than propagandist, the canon has been presented   as essentially linked to an ideal of southern community conceived in  history but transcending the materialism of historical circumstances. The  emergence of southern women's writing, however, makes that literary orthodoxy   seem partial, at best. What is emerging in southern literature, to confound   the critical attempts of traditional defenders to extend the hegemony  of renaissance ideology, is a body of work by white women writers that calls  up "forgotten" meanings of precursor texts and proposes a new configuration  of southern "community." The more defenders try to stretch the Quentin  thesis to fit historical/social change, the more the thesis thins at its weakest  seams.
Ironically, after all of this, Kreyling then spent two chapters discussing Faulkner—although his discussion of Faulkner is one in which he identifies Faulkner as suffering from an anxiety of his own influence.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It begins!

I went to school this morning and got my three questions--they're daunting, but they're good questions.  I've now got six weeks to write an essay in response to each of the three questions.  Then, my committee has two weeks to read and review them, and I defend them on Monday, October 13, at 10:00am (I had to schedule the time and place before I could get my questions!).  So it begins...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Anne Goodwyn Jones--Tomorrow is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South, 1859-1936 (1981)

Jones looks at the work of seven white women writing before WWII who “all criticize the ideal of southern womanhood point by point in similar ways, and by means of similar imagery, plotting, characterization, and narrative points of view.”  Importantly, she observes that
the ideal of southern womanhood that informed these women’s lives and fictions not only often conflicted with their actual human needs but also contained its own internal ambiguities and contradictions.  When the image exhorts both intelligence and submission, both bravery and fragility, conflict seems inevitable. (xii)
As Jones observes “that ideal did not serve only as a norm for individual behavior[,] it became also a central symbol in the South’s idea of itself” (xii), she provides an important reason for the study of women in this literature: “in the American South woman represented as well [man’s] ambivalent feelings about social class, race, and national identity” (5).  Further, she points out that for traditional southern womanhood, itself more a personification than a human possibility, “efforts to join person and personification, to make self into symbol, must fail because the idea of southern womanhood specifically denies the self” (4).  While acknowledging the similarities between traditional southern womanhood and the Victorian lady or American True Womanhood, she points out important differences:
the southern lady is at the core of a region’s self-definition; the identity of the South is contingent in part upon the persistence of its tradition of the lady.  Secondly, and perhaps for that reason, the ideal of southern womanhood seems to have lasted longer than other ideas….in a third divergence…southern womanhood has from the beginning been inextricably linked to racial attitudes….finally, the very image itself seems, if not radically different from, at least an extreme version of the nineteenth century lady….And the class—aristocratic—that the image of the lady represents receives a stronger emphasis in the South than elsewhere. (4-5)
Significant to my work is her quote from Robert Afton Holland, a clergyman at the University o the South, who in 1909 said that, “once outside the home, woman become a horrific animal, acquiring ‘bigger hands, bigger feet, higher cheek bones, lanker limbs, flatter chests, hook noses, lips thin and tight” (20).
While the individual chapters have analyses and observations on specific authors, works, and characters which I find useful, Jones’s remarks in her conclusion are the most useful for my project.  For example, she observes that,
In contrast to symbolizing beauty as purity and fragility, as the southern lady should, these protagonists have dark eyebrows and strong bodies.  Probably because their values—free intelligence, aloneness, self-assertion—are traditionally masculine, the physical appearance of the protagonists is often atypical, even androgynous.  Edna, Scarlett, Katharine, Beulah, Hagar, and Gabriella are all described as striking but not beautiful: they have “character.”  On the other hand, to Oliver, Virginia appeared fragile and delicate, her skin like magnolia blossoms.  Moreover, many characters feel and express their sexuality, from the adolescent Claire’s emerging sensuousness, responding to the dancing in the streets, to Calixta’s full adult pleasure in the act of sex. (354)
Further, she points out that “traditional images of beauty of the southern female are, in almost every work, scorned or ignored.  Beginning by discarding the fragility of the skin like magnolias and eyes like violets, these women writers are inventing through imagery their own definitions of southern womanhood” (362).  In Jones’s consideration, the heart of the conflicts expressed in these works is a fundamental tension between realism and romanticism.  Romanticism, a familiar mode, allows the author to “substitute for material reality a dream that is, paradoxically, more ‘realistic’ than objective reality.  This is, in fact, what these writers do when they dream up characters who are neither beautiful nor fragile, conventionally good nor powerless” (359).  While these authors grew up with romanticism as the primary mode of their society, “because the realist depicts the actual daily experience of ordinary persons, realism would have appealed as the literary method for debunking the ideal of the southern lady.  It would thus serve as a corrective for the entire society of the South, in exposing the romantic illusion of the marble lady” (359).  Realism “reveals the ugliness, the injustice, and the sordidness of society, which romanticism can pass over” (358).
It occurs to me that Jones’s observations circle around Sonnet 130—that the physical appearance of Shakespeare’s mistress is what attracts the speaker—it makes her corporeal, rather than ethereal.  It may be in part that we want characters we can relate to.  It may be that flaws make someone more attractive, more interesting—in the whole “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” Tolstoy way.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fred Hobson--Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain (1983)

Hobson traces what he calls the “rage to explain” which he sees as a constant in writings by those from the American South since before the Civil War.  According to Hobson, “the Southerner, more than other Americans, has felt he had something to explain, to justify, defend, or to affirm” (3).  Interestingly, he observes that not only do they often feel that they need to defend the South’s inferior status, but that many take pride, “a sense of distinction, of superiority, stemming from this inferior status.  The Southerner, that is to say, wears his heritage of failure and defeat as his badge of honor” (12).  Hobson breaks up the authors in his analysis into three large historical groups: antebellum writers, those writing “after Appomattox,” and those writing during and since the Civil Rights era.  Those writing before the Civil War were generally defending the Southern way of life—specifically, a way of life centered around race-based slavery.  After the Civil War, writers defended the southern way of life they saw destroyed by the War and particularly by Reconstruction, and many mythologized the lost way of life.  However, there were some, like George Washington Cable, whose work began to be critical of the South, especially in its racial policies.  By the twentieth century, writers became much more proscriptive in their work, culminating in the work of the 1920s and 1930s, which saw the publication of I’ll Take My Stand by the Vanderbilt-based Agrarians as well as the sociology-based work of writers such as Howard Odum at the University of North Carolina.  According to Hobson, the Agrarians saw the South’s major problem as one of public relations, while the North Carolina school writers were more concerned with addressing the problems of the South such as poverty, disease, and racism.  By the Civil Rights era, writers either tried to explain the myth of the South, or encourage the South to give up segregation.  By Hobson’s writing, in the wake of the Civil Rights era, the mythic South had given way to the progressive “Sun Belt,” and writers were now “focusing on the picturesque, on the South as cultural museum of charms and oddities.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Anne Fausto-Sterling--Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (2000)

Fausto-Sterling’s primary claim is that “labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision.  We may use scientific knowledge to help us make the decision, but only our beliefs about gender—not science—can define our sex.  Furthermore, our believes about gender affect what kinds of knowledge scientists produce about sex in the first place.”  Rather, she claims that “Our bodies are too complex to provide clear-cut answers about sexual difference.  The more we look for a simple physical basis for ‘sex,’ the more it becomes clear that ‘sex’ is not a purely physical category.  What bodily signals and functions we define as male or female come already entangled in our ideas about gender.”  She notes that it wasn’t until the 1970s that sex and gender were posited as separate categories by sexologists, while second-wave feminists argued that gender differences were primarily the result of social institutions “designed to perpetuate gender inequality.”  However, because feminists left the physical differences of sex unquestioned, they left open the possibilities of “hardwired” differences between the sexes.
Importantly, Fausto-Sterling claims that
Truths about human sexuality created by scholars in general and by biologists in particular are one component of political, social, and moral struggles about our cultures and economies.  At the same time, components of our political, social, and moral struggles become, quite literally, embodied, incorporated into our very physiological being.  (location 129)
More specifically, she acknowledges that “Understanding how race and gender work—together and independently—helps us learn more about how the social becomes embodied.”  And it is this process of the social becoming embodied in which I am interested.  In particular, Fausto-Sterling points to the lack of data collection on the “normal distribution of genital anatomy,” which demonstrates that “from the viewpoint of medical practitioners, progress in the handling of intersexuality involves maintaining the normal.  Accordingly, there ought to be only two boxes: male and female.”
Fausto-Sterling observes that a similarly policed binary exists in general understandings of sexuality—one is either inherently heterosexual, or inherently a lesbian.  Further, even using the Kinsey scale, which acknowledges a more continuum-like understanding of sexual-object desire, is still a linear, two-dimensional scale.  She does acknowledge the existence of more complicated scales, such as that by Fritz Klein (which uses seven variables: sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, self-identification, hetero/homo lifestyle along with a time scale).  Further, the work of feminist and gay theorists which revealed the social constructed nature of sexuality encouraged the idea that sexual expression was not biologically grounded.  Responding to Halperin’s claim that “sexuality is not a somatic fact, it is a cultural effect,” Fausto-Sterling instead posits that “sexuality is a somatic fact created by a cultural effect.”  Comparing Butler’s idea that the body is completely constructed through discourse with that of Grosz, who thinks there are some biological processes which “precede meaning,” Fausto-Sterling posits that “we need the concept of the psyche, a place where two-way translations between the mind and the body take place.”
Working against this is a deeply entrenched commitment to the idea of only two, discrete sexes: “Reconceptualizing the category of ‘sex’ challenges cherished aspects of European and American social organization.”  Fausto-Sterling gives a detailed account of the development of our understanding of sex and sexuality, primarily in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and shows in painstaking detail how political events and cultural norms of the times shaped scientific inquiry and understanding.  Ultimately, she does denounce her earlier proposed five-sex model, but instead advocates for a much more nuanced understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality, one which takes the idea of systemic interaction into much greater account.  Using a really useful example of the evolution of smiling as one which begins as a somatically neutral, muscularly simple action to one which, over the course of maturation and interaction, becomes a much more emotionally-connected and muscularly complex action, Fausto-Sterling argues that sex, gender, and sexuality need to be analyzed as similarly systems-oriented behaviors.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Erving Goffman--Stigma: Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1978)

Goffman identifies the process through which we determine stigma, a characteristic which he importantly identifies as a relational one:
Society establishes the means of categorizing persons and the complement of attributes felt to be ordinary and natural for members of each of these categories.  Social settings establish the categories of persons likely to be encountered there.  The routines of social intercourse in established settings allow us to deal with anticipated others without special attention or thought. (2)
Or, more specifically, “The term stigma, then, will be used to refer to an attribute that is deeply discrediting, but it should be seen that a language of relationships, not attributes, is really needed….stigma, then, is really a special kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype” (2). [1] Observing that “the person with stigma is not quite human” (3), Goffman explains that the our unconscious assumptions lead us to “exercise varieties of discrimination, through which we effectively, if often unthinkingly, reduce his life chances” (3)—an observation which echoes Butler’s ideas about intelligibility. 
Goffman also echoes Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, noting that stigma reduces a person in the mind from being a “whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one” (2).  He then turns to the possible reactions of those who are stigmatized, which include trying to correct the stigma, or focusing his attention to mastery of one particular area related to his shortcoming, or, he can “break with what is called reality, and obstinately attempt to employ an unconventional interpretation of the character of his social identity” (6).  Goffman’s focus is what he calls “‘mixed contacts’—the moments when stigmatized and normal are in the same ‘social situation,’ that is, in one another’s immediate physical presence” (8)—and notes that most normals and stigmatized will arrange their lives to minimize such moments of mixed contact.  At such moments, the stigmatized may be unsure how he will be identified and received (9), and may have to work at the impression he is making.  Further, stigmatized people are vulnerable to invasions of privacy, with perfect strangers feeling comfortable starting personal conversations.  On the other hand, “normals” in such situations may find themselves hyperaware of their own reactions, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.
One thing which is interesting to note is that Goffman identifies that “no matter how small and how badly off a particular stigmatized category is, the viewpoint of its members is likely to be given public presentation of some kind.”  The result of this is that “Americans who are stigmatized tend to live in a literarily-defined world” (25).  Additionally, I’m also interested in what Goffman terms “disidentifiers”: “a sign that tends—in fact or hope—to break up an otherwise coherent picture but in this case in a positive direction…not so much establishing a new claim as throwing severe doubt on the validity of the virtual one” (43)—in other words, markers which allow one to “pass” as a normal, or at least less stigmatized.
Most importantly, Goffman addresses ugliness directly in his discussion of visibility of stigma:
the visibility of a stigma (as well as its obtrusiveness) must be disentangled from certain possibilities of what can be called its “perceived focus.”  We normals develop conceptions, whether objectively grounded or not, as to the sphere of life-activity for which an individual’s particular stigma primarily disqualifies him.  Ugliness, for example, has its initial and prime effect during social situations, threatening the pleasure we might otherwise take in the company of its possessor.  We perceive, however, that his competency in solitary tasks, although of course we may discriminate against him here simply because of the feelings we have about looking at him.  Ugliness, then, is a stigma that is focused on social situations. (49).
This is in contrast to a less visible stigma, such as diabetes, which have “no initial effect on the individual’s qualifications for face-to-face interactions” (49).  While I take Goffman’s point about the immediacy of ugliness’s visibility, I think that (a) ugliness is often used as a marker of characteristics which are not physical (as in, the Lord don’t like ugly, or don’t be ugly); and (b) while ugliness is certainly relational, as Goffman characterizes stigmas to be, I think that it is much more complicated than his characterization as being primarily one of social situations.
Also important to my work is his observation that “although impersonal contacts between strangers are particularly subject to stereotypical responses, as persons come to be on closer terms with each other this categoric approach recedes and gradually sympathy, understanding, and a realistic assessment of personal qualities takes its place” (51).  This observation certainly must be considered in my analysis of Scarlett O’Hara.  This leads Goffman to conclude that “stigma management, then, might be seen as something that pertains mainly to public life” (51)—but again, I think this characterization of “public life, to contact between strangers or mere acquaintances, to one end of a continuum whose other pole is intimacy” (51) should be more nuanced in my consideration.  It further makes me think of the relationship between appearance, how appearance is read, what happens in that intersubjective space between viewer and viewed, and the effect on identity.

[1] I’m also quite intrigued by the relationship he sets up between the stigmatized and the normal person—what Goffman characterizes as the person he is “normal against” (4)—the use of “against” here is really interesting.

Sigmund Freud--Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)

Freud makes a number of significant and surprisingly progressive points in this work.  Building on and responding to the work of sexologists such as Krafft-Ebing and Ulrich.  In the first essay, “The Sexual Aberrations,” Freud addresses inversion, fetishes, and other “aberrations.”  Significantly, he observes that sexual inversion varies: while some are only attracted to those of the same sex, others can be attracted to both sexes, and even others engaged in sexual activity with those of the same sex under specific circumstances (location 123).  Some have always had feelings for the same sex, while some can point to specific incidents which acted as a catalyst for these feelings (location 160).  Further, many “inverts” are attracted to very feminine men, for example, which complicates the general understanding of inversion as a woman’s mind trapped in a man’s body.  Importantly, he claims that, “The sexual impulse is probably entirely independent of its object and is not originated by the stimuli proceeding from the object” (location 236). 
In his discussion of sadomasochism, Freud observes that “The sexuality of most men shows a taint of aggression, it is a propensity to subdue, the biological significance of which lies in the necessity of overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by actions other than mere courting” (location 349).  When combined with his earlier characterization of the “conventional reticence and dishonesty of women” (273), the dynamics of heterosexuality as Freud observes them are troubling.  However, it is also significant that Freud identifies that all “normal” sexual behavior contains elements of perversion, and “this universality suffices in itself to prove the inexpediency to prove the opprobrious application of the name perversion” (location 386).  Further, it is also significant that Freud wishes to “find out how much of the biology of the sexual life of man can be discovered by means of psychological investigation” (location 114), instead of trying to find coincidences of sexual characteristics with physical markers, as so many before him tried to do.  He also seems to be arguing for situational sexuality, as he says that there are very few people who truly prefer children or animals sexually to adults, but that most who prey upon the young or engage in bestiality do so out of cowardliness or lack of other partners (especially in the case of animals). Freud also argues for the existence of sexual urges from birth—not from puberty—and thus claims that sexual perversions can have their roots in childhood development and experience.

Scott Romine--The Real South: Southern Narrative in the Age of Cultural Reproduction

Evoking the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, Romine examines “the ‘real’/‘South’: a set of anxious, transient, even artificial intersections, sutures, or common surfaces between two concepts that are themselves remarkably fluid” (2-3).  He argues that “the South’s relatively abrupt entrance into modernity and its aftermath has generated a kind of time-space compression compression, if you will, wherein the South’s cultural and economic ‘backwardness’ relative to the U.S. nation has, ironically enough, placed it in the avant-garde of contemporary poetics” (4).  I’m fascinated by his reading of the Agrarians, who were “not too late for a South already corrupted by a capitalized and industrialized economy, but too early for a post-industrial economy wherein the flexible accumulation of capital would drive, and be driven by, the flexible accumulation of culture” (6).  Observing more recent accounts of the (post)South, Romine looks at both work by Martyn Bone and Jon Smith’s critique of Bone’s work: “narratives of rupture and continuity support tactical (scholarly) projects of different sorts—for Bone, an account of southern cities as dystopian effects of postnational finance capitalism; for Smith, an account of cities as ‘the best things to happen to the South’—and further, that they do so by suturing southern stories to southern spaces” (7).  In Romine’s consideration, his “own definition of the South, such as it is, would be precisely as a field of suture” (7).  He emphasizes the reproductive, reiterative nature of “the South”—“Post-essentialist accounts of the South (as something like a mere geographical container) characteristically reiterate, or at least depend upon, earlier essentialist accounts of what generated such boundaries in the first place” (14).
In his focus on narrative, Romine claims that “Narratives tell of, present, and portray desire even as they use and embody it, and in this doubling lies, I argue, narrative’s distinctive capacity to account, in the broadest sense, for desire’s operations as it is decoded, cut loose from more regulated forms of territoriality, and then reattached more tenuously and flexibly to themed spaces, localities, and artificial territorialities” (24).  Later, he uses this idea of narrative in his definition of culture:
I want to interrogate essentialist productions of the South as they are mapped on a stressed terrain of interlocking and overlapping territorialities, of rapid oscillations  of interpellation and articulation, of similarity and difference.  Instead of a real South, I want to think about the South as Appadurai suggests we should conceptualize culture: in a nonsubstantive way—that is, less a set of properties attached to a location (and still less a coherent “way of life” through which a coherent southern identity is maintained) than a flexible and loosely spatialized archive of “materials” (historical, cultural, material) differently mobilized in acts of situated and articulated difference, multiply embedded in what Kreyling calls narratives of identity (105)
in “the pragmatics (as opposed to the metaphysics) of authenticity” (106).  Ultimately, Romine argues that “we are still using regional culture as a tool to organize spaces, to build environments, and to tell stories,” and it is narratives which “strive to secure identities, cultures, and their locations as real, not fake, continuous, not contingent” (229).  The South is still a viable idea.