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Millennial Mountaineer: The Reconfiguration of Literary Appalachia in the Works Of Pinckney Benedict, Chris Offutt, And Charles Frazier

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paul Lester Robertson (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Sandra Ballard

Abstract: The specific focus of this thesis is on three novels emerging from what I argue is the latest period, or era, of “insider” Appalachian fiction: Pinckney Benedict's Dogs of God (1994), Chris Offutt's The Good Brother (1997), and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (1997). Significantly, these works celebrate (for lack of a better word) an untamed, violent, “backwards” (in the sense of refusing the dictates of mainstream American society) vision of the region. While this fictional vision has antecedents drawn from the several previous eras of Appalachian-themed fiction, Benedict, Offutt, and Frazier reinterpret and re-contextualize the very traits that provide a negative stereotype of the Appalachian region and its people. That is, they take the attributes that consistently define the “other” of mainstream American values: violent inclinations, refusal to embrace mainstream ideological/moral imperatives, and resistance to progress—and transform them into a positive, “heroic” or, more correctly, “anti-heroic” vision of the region that proudly offers an almost militant counterpoint to their correspondingly negative vision of mainstream America. Such realignment of symbols confirms Anthony Harkins' point in Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon: “Although the hillbilly image has remained relatively unchanged, the meaning of these representations and the word itself have continuously evolved over the past century in response to broader social, economic, and cultural transformations in American society.” In this “postmodern” age of shifting, composite identities, popular culture is experiencing a pronounced change in what it views as an ideal hero and an ideal world. Recent popular reinterpretations of the American hero emerging in film and print validate the positions of these Appalachian writers and their works within a larger American context. Such revision of what constitutes a literary (or cinematic) hero may help to explain the general popularity of such works as those examined here.

Additional Information

Robertson, Paul. (2010). Millennial Mountaineer: The Reconfiguration of Literary Appalachia in the Works Of Pinckney Benedict, Chris Offutt, And Charles Frazier. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010