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The Frontier Roots of American Realism

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Gretchen Martin

In the antebellum South, the «plain folk» maintained social norms, ideals of honor, justice, gender, and liberty that were significantly distinct from town and planter gentility, and the humorists of the Old South captured this important distinction. Southwest humor flourished from the 1830s through the Civil War and this book provides a thorough investigation of the unique and innovative contributions of these humorists to the field of American literary realism, such as use of vernacular authenticity, complex character portraits, and the narrative technique of disclosure. Thus, when the Southwest humorists «tell about the South,» they provide an endlessly entertaining and realistic representation of the vast complexities of the antebellum South and illustrate that the roots of literary realism were sown and nurtured on the southwestern frontier.