Outside the southern myth by Noel Polk

By Noel Polk

Noel Polk, the Faulkner pupil and academician, is a local of the small Mississippi urban of Picayune. In his occupation as a global student and vacationer and in his position as a instructor and a professor of literature he has moved past his origins whereas carrying on with to be nourished through his place of birth roots. Like many different southern males he does not healthy the surface world's stereotype of the southern male. "I virtually perpetually see myself depicted within the media as both a beer-drinking meanspirited pickup-driving redneck racist, a julep-sipping plantation-owning kindhearted benevolent racist, or, at top, a nonracist strong ole boy, among the many adaptations of Forrest Gump, good-hearted and retarded, who makes his approach within the glossy global now not simply because he's clever yet simply because he is - good, reliable hearted." In outdoor the Southern delusion Polk deals an apologia for an immense section of southern men and groups that do not belong within the media pix. His city used to be no longer antebellum. there have been no plantations. No Civil conflict battles have been fought there. It had little racial divisiveness. It used to be one of many hundreds of thousands that mushroomed alongside the railroads as a reaction to logging and milling industries. It was once almost always middle-class, no longer reactionary or particular. whereas evoking either the pleasures and the issues of his past-band journeys, a longing for cityscapes, spiritual conversion, awakening to the realities of fundamentalist fervor- Polk deals himself, his relatives, and his city to exemplify a facet that's extra American than southern and a practice that's not mired some time past. As he explores the ways that his adventure of the South outlined him, he concludes that his lifestyles has been skilled in a parallel universe, no longer in a time warp. He and lots of like him exist open air the southern delusion. Noel Polk is the writer of youngsters of the darkish apartment: textual content and Context in Faulkner (University Press of Mississippi) and editor of the analyzing Faulkner sequence and of 11 Faulkner texts for Random apartment, The Library of the USA, and classic foreign.

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But I also drink St. Emilion and eat Beluga caviar. If forced to choose I would listen to Kiri Te Kanawa and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf rather than Patsy Cline and K. D. Lang. On Page 14 good days I too can spell Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and would drive a Porsche if I could afford one. I do not come from a slaveholding family; nobody that I know of in my ancestry was a Confederate soldier and I still do not know all the names of the Confederate generals. I have no uncles or aunts or neighbors who are natural born storytellers.

I as southerner stand between two mirrors so huge that they reflect nothing but each other and I can see nothing that is not reflected in them; before and behind me multiple simultaneous replications of my image speed away into infinity, and no matter how I strain to one side, trying to get even a fleeting glimpse of the original, singly-, simply-reflected I, I cannot ever see it. I am forever blocked by the image facing me from the mirror, no matter which mirror I face. Even as I grew up halfway between Hattiesburg and New Orleans, so do I now live, as a southerner, somewhere between the actuality and the cultural re-presentation of that actuality, and it's often very difficult to distinguish between the twoif there is a distinction.

Curiouslyor notnearly all of the Nashville Fugitive-Agrarian crowd, those who articulated the agrarian virtues so forcefully in their 1930 manifesto I'll Take My Stand, got out of the South, certainly out of their rural beginnings, just as soon as they possibly could, and began to sanitize and romanticize that rural world in their writing. No plows or outdoor toilets for these folks, no matter how desirable they were for other southerners, no matter how much moral "value" attached to them. The CEOs and wannabe moguls of this industry thus defined "southern" literature as based in qualities that reified nature, rootedness, family, geography, and the tragic sense of history (a euphemism, I believe, for some more accurate phrase like "the niggers and the Yankees Page xiv really played hell with us"): qualities through which they managed to sentimentalize and so soften the harsher edges of the South's history.

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