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This study of late nineteenth-century American literature begins with a simple question: how did the rise of an urban society affect the ways in which the nation's writers represented the countryside? In offering an answer,Rural Fictions, Urban Realitiesremaps our understanding of American literature by examining the period through its 'rural fictions'. From the coasts of Maine to the ranches of Wyoming, and from the farms of the Midwest to the small towns of the South, tales of rural life reveal the profound and sometimes problematic connections between rural America and its growing urban centers between the 1870s and the 1900s. Moreover, those connections are illuminated by showing how the representation of vital, contested, and sometimes controversial aspects of everyday life--train journeys, travelling circuses, country doctors, and lynch mobs--offer a distinct way of understanding the era's deeper social transformations. In keeping with this unique approach to the period's literature, this book ranges across a number of works by writers who have largely dropped out of scholarly discussion (Edward Eggleston, Alice Brown, Joseph Kirkland, Mary Noailles Murfree, and Booth Tarkington, to name a few) whilst also reexamining works by more well-known figures (Sarah Orne Jewett, Owen Wister, Charles Chesnutt, William Dean Howells, and Hamlin Garland, amongst others).Rural Fictions, Urban Realitiesproposes a new literary geography of Gilded Age America, and in the process contributes to our understanding of how we represent and register the cultural complexities of modernization.
Mark Storey is a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick.