“It Was The Writing of Them, That Signified”: Reshaping Reader Perceptions of Appalachian and Disabled Identities

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dana Schlanger (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site: http://library.unca.edu/
Erica Abrams Locklear

Abstract: Lee Smith, in her 1988 novel "Fair and Tender Ladies", provides a seminal account of the Appalachian experience during colonial activity and addresses its impact on native Appalachian people. Appalachia has long endured a history of outsiders who attempt, in various ways, to colonize it. While operating under the guise of Progressive Era savior ideologies of “improvement” and social and cultural change, this process of colonization ultimately acts as a form of physical and cultural theft, as well as cultural erasure. In this paper, the author investigates the ways in which Smith depicts Ivy Rowe and her disabled sister, Silvaney, as physical and figurative sites of Appalachian colonial activity. Within this framework Appalachian colonialism is read through two primary lenses: literacy and disability. The author argues that the novel’s epistolary form not only refutes narratives of Appalachian illiteracy, but also makes readers privy to an Appalachian character’s reactions to and understandings of colonial activity that they otherwise would not know. Thus, the epistolary form enables readers to reconceptualize dominant narratives of Appalachian dependency. This project, moreover, evaluates how colonial forces essentially define Appalachia as disabled, according to Northern conceptions of literacy and culture, and how this designation has served to justify Appalachian colonialism

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Appalachia, colonialism, Lee Smith

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