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Matthew Smith

Matthew SmithFifth-Year (in 2016-17) Doctoral Student, Department of English
Project:  The Grave and the Angelus: Misreading Local Color Louisiana, 1865-1914

In the aftermath of the American Civil War, national periodicals such as Harper's, The Century, and The Atlantic Monthly eagerly solicited and published literature depicting small, often isolated regional communities within the United States – literature collectively referred to as local color.  This project addresses the following question about that body of literature:  If part of local color's aesthetic goal depended upon making local communities at least partially visible and legible to a national readership, what is at stake when that readership misinterprets the folkways, traditions, linguistic peculiarities, and racial formations represented within these texts?  This dissertation moves towards answering this question by examining how limits – the limits of local knowledge and the limits of literary interpretation – functioned for both the authors and readers of local color literature.  As a case study, this project focuses on local color texts depicting South Louisiana by authors such as George Washington Cable, Lafcadio Hearn, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson.


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