Abstract

Appalachian identity is often portrayed as an either/or proposition in popular perception, while at the same time backwoods stereotypes stick hard to that identity. In this essay, I offer my own complicated Appalachian narrative alongside analysis of the literary and social positions of Fred Chappell and Silas House to discuss how contemporary individuals talk back against stereotype and expectation. I argue that an ideological construct of hillbillies seeks always to hold Appalachia in a frozen state of backwardness, which serves certain national narratives of power. By talking back, writers like Chappell and House break those narratives, work to defuse the political capital of stereotype, and ease limitations on what constitutes authentic Appalachian identity.

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