20th century American Literature authors
Local color or regional literature is fiction and poetry that focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region. Influenced by Southwestern and Down East humor, between the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century this mode of writing became dominant in American literature. According to the Oxford Companion to American Literature, "In local-color literature one finds the dual influence of romanticism and realism, since the author frequently looks away from ordinary life to distant lands, strange customs, or exotic scenes, but retains through minute detail a sense of fidelity and accuracy of description" (439). In his Cultures of Letters (1993) Richard Brodhead provides a short gloss on the genre: “It requires a setting outside the world of modern development, a zone of backwardness where locally variant folkways still prevail. Its characters are ethnologically colorful, personifications of the different humanity produced in such non-modern cultural settings. Above all, this fiction features an extensive written simulation of regional vernacular, a conspicuous effort to catch the nuances of local speech” (115-116). Josephine Donovan connects regionalist, or local color, literature to specific realistic representations. She specifies the genre as "depict[ing] authentic regional detail, including authentic dialect, authentic local characters, in real or realistic geographical settings.”
Its weaknesses may include nostalgia or sentimentality. Its customary form is the sketch or short story, although Hamlin Garland argued for the novel of local color. Regional literature incorporates the broader concept of sectional differences, although Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse have argued convincingly that the distinguishing characteristic that separates "local color" writers from "regional" writers is instead the exploitation of and condescension toward their subjects that the local color writers demonstrate.
One definition of the difference between realism and local color is Eric Sundquist's: "Economic or political power can itself be seen to be definitive of a realist aesthetic, in that those in power (say, white urban males) have been more often judged 'realists, ' while those removed from the seats of power (say, Midwesterners, blacks, immigrants, or women) have been categorized as regionalists." See also the definition from the Encyclopedia of Southern Literature.
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