ABSTRACT

This article examines the short stories of South Carolina author Julia Peterkin published in Richmond literary magazine The Reviewer between 1921 and 1925. Placing these peculiar stories of postbellum plantation life into their publication context, this article concerns itself with how the stories unsettle the ambitions for the Southern magazine set out by H. L. Mencken and The Reviewer’s editor, Emily Tapscott Clark. Following the publication of Mencken’s controversial article “The Sahara of the Bozart,” the focus of the Southern literary magazine was to present a progressive yet identifiable image of Southernness. Peterkin’s Reviewer stories are violently grotesque and, through the recurrence of disability and mutilation, disrupt the methods of reading dialect bound up in local color fiction, both fulfilling and defying the model for Southern writing. This article focuses on how the stories alter the relationship between the Northern reader and the Southern story, while examining the complex dynamics of Peterkin as a white writer using the lives of African American plantation workers as her subject.

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