Character, community, and the form of ethics in four American regionalists: Alice Cary, Kate Chopin, Walker Percy, Larry Brown

John Anthony Staunton, Fordham University

Abstract

The aim of “Character, Community, and the Form of Ethics in Four American Regionalists” is to recognize and establish the interconnection of literary form and ethical content as a distinctive feature of American regionalist fiction, in general, and in the work of Alice Cary, Kate Chopin, Walker Percy, and Larry Brown, in particular. The study adopts a hermeneutical method drawn from the theoretical work of Paul Ricoeur, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Gary Saul Morson to explore three central aspects of this interconnection. It examines (1) how the formal structures of regionalist texts configure and make visible a subjective experience of local life, (2) how that subjective envisioning creates a “visualizable” place in which moral and ethical positions are enacted, and (3) how those ethical performances encourage a readerly refiguration and re-seeing of local life that will be engaged with the characters in the particular moral/ethical communities of the texts. ^ The four authors selected for this study arrive at different ethical positions in their texts, but they each arrive at those positions through similar concerns about locating viable regional communities. To configure those communities the authors look to the people and places of region and experiment with the capacities of literary forms. The strong regional identification created by the fiction of these four authors and the acute attention to the operations of formal and ethical elements in their work reveal an historical trajectory, spanning from Alice Cary's Clovernook in 1851 and 1853 to Larry Brown's Father and Son in 1996, of the interrelation of ethics and form in regionalist writing. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

John Anthony Staunton, "Character, community, and the form of ethics in four American regionalists: Alice Cary, Kate Chopin, Walker Percy, Larry Brown" (January 1, 1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9926918.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9926918

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