New Scales of Regionalist Writing (1820-1914). Special Issue of Romantisme (Spring 2018)
Regionalism has long been a contested label. From its birth as "local color" at the end of the eighteenth-century to its resurgence in, and as, modernism at the turn into the twentieth-century, its defense and illustration of local customs, local dialects and of a particular sense of place has been read alternatively as a conservationist move, an "anti-modern" advocation of essentialist identities, as a capitalistic avatar of the commodification of particularities (Brodhead) and as deterritorialized critique or a radical attempt at deconstructing the norms of place, gender, and literary genres (Pryse and Fetterley).
Notwithstanding the varieties of its cultural manifestations—from regionalist schools of painting or music, regionalist cuisines or touristic attractions to literary sketches and novels, in France, Scotland, Germany or the United-States—, the emergence of regionalism has been consistently articulated to the rise and consolidation of nation-states. Recent criticism, however, invites us to envisage regionalism both beneath and beyond the scale of the nation and to take into account not only the coevalness of regionalist productions within one single country (e.g., in France, considering George Sand's works in the context of the Ecole de Courbet—Francis Wey (1812-1882), Jules Husson Champfleury (1820-1889), Max Buchon (1819-1869)—but also, more broadly, within Europe or the Atlantic world.
In 2010, Josephine Donovan's European Local-Color Literature: National Tales, Dorfgeschichten, Romans Champêtres opened the way to new readings of regionalism as a European genre; retracing the numerous transfers between what had so far been considered primarily national traditions, she threw light on the literary and artistic networks of writers, translators and publishers across Europe. In France, for instance, the genre of "la couleur locale"—possibly a translation of Walter Scott's "local color"—throve in the first decades of the nineteenth-century at the same time that translations of Maria Edgeworth, or Lady Morgan's Irish novels, John Galt's Scottish chronicles, as well as collections of poems originally written in German, circulated widely. Later on, in the middle of the century, Berthold Auerbach's village sketches from the Black Forest were translated into French by Max Buchon, a member of the literary circle around Courbet, and commented upon by George Sand, who also visited Auerbach in Germany. Those examples offer sufficient warning against reading regionalist productions within the context of one national tradition, which does not mean that political and cultural specificities are simply to be dismissed: Donovan suggests for instance that the political vein of the French roman champêtre may be more class-oriented while German, Scottish or Irish regionalisms rebelled more against foreign tyrannical powers or ethnic subjugation—something that invites closer investigation. A European rescaling of our analysis is therefore required. But it is insufficient.
In "The Literary Sketch and British Atlantic Regionalism" (2015), Juliet Shields asks for a reconsideration of the regionalist sketch (written in English) in the context of the British Atlantic empire. "Atlantic British regionalism," she argues, allows us to make sense of the simultaneous emergence of the Scottish, Irish and American regionalist sketch as a product of a new cultural and literary solidarity between non-English regions of the British Atlantic world. Reading the literature of the Celtic periphery of England together with that of the newly emancipated American colonies, she proposes, invites us to read regionalist production as a critique of imperial normativity. Shields, however, does not include continental European regionalisms in her study. French and German regionalisms tend to disappear in studies that take the Atlantic world as their scale of analysis, an invisibility that is belied by the evidence of a transatlantic circulation of regionalist forms and ideas: George Sand's portrait, to take one example, adorned Sarah Orne Jewett's New England house, and the American regionalist often acknowledged the French author of romans champêtres as an inspiration, however different the resistance of both writers to the normativity of their two countries' national and imperialist projects.
In view of such renewed interest in the scales of analysis of regionalist studies, this special issue of Romantisme intends to reconsider American and European regionalisms in the context of the second globalization (1820-1914), the era of empires and the age of imperialism. Recent historiography has put a lesser emphasis on the differences between the British maritime empire and the continental empire born out of the Napoleonic conquests. Regionalism has yet to find its place in this new construction. Instead of understanding regionalism as a reaction to national hegemonies, our working hypothesis is to consider it as a tentative response to the advent of multi-faceted empires: the British empire (including Ireland, Scotland), the French Empire (born under Napoleon and redesigned as the overseas empire of the nineteenth century), the American Empire, the "Empire for liberty" (Jefferson) destined to move westward. What does it mean to remap regionalist studies at the level of empires understood as a political and cultural form that systematically challenges scales of belonging?
Concomitantly with the rise of empires, this issue would like to consider a central vector of globalization in the long nineteenth-century, imperialism. The increasing racialization of otherness, the constant drive to classify and typify that the new science of ethnography, and in its wake, historical, and later, sociological knowledge, required, was the toolbox of an imperialism that helped subjugate cultures and populations constructed as "foreign." Reading the Irish and Scottish regionalist sketches in relation to the imperialist episteme was sharpened at the time by the colonization of India and Africa; reading French regionalism on the backdrop of the conquest of Algeria or Indochina may provide new insights, with the codes of imperialism working as a new paradigm for depicting the "savages" of the back countries.
In sum, this issue of Romantisme invites the submission of abstracts that examine forms of regionalisms (literature, music, painting, architecture, gastronomy, tourism, language...) beyond the framework of the construction of the nation-state. Close-reading of regionalist texts or artifacts in a comparative perspective is encouraged though not required. Preference will be given to proposals that attempt to revisit regionalism in relation to the history of the construction of empire and the rise of a global imperialist episteme.
Proposals may include, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- comparative cross-readings of European, or European and American regionalist texts (or artifacts)
- construction of regionalism in and through print culture; reading regionalism in periodicals; reading European, American, local periodicals from the angle of regionalism
- networks of regionalist figures (writers, musicians, painters, architects... )
- construction and circulation of regionalist knowledge (meta-regionalism; musicology; lexicography, ethnography, geography, botany...)
- regionalist readerships across different scales
- economies of regionalism (tourism, architecture, museography, publicity, gastronomy...)
- local, regional dialects, "strange tongues"
- regionalism and racial typologies
- regionalism and class-construction on an international scale (e.g. democratic revolutions and regionalisms...)
- regionalism and sexual or gender constructions
- regionalism and cosmopolitanism
- regionalism and terroirs
- regionalism and vernacular cultures in a global perspective
Authors should submit 300-word abstracts and a short CV by April 15, 2017 to Cécile Roudeau (guest-editor of this issue): firstname.lastname@example.org. The papers selected (30,000 signs, inclusive of footnotes and spaces) will be due November 15, 2017. They will be peer-reviewed before publication.
Publication is scheduled for Spring 2018.