How would you say that “sweat” and “spunk” reflect the categories of local color and regional fiction?How would you say that “sweat” and “spunk” reflect the categories of local...

How would you say that “sweat” and “spunk” reflect the categories of local color and regional fiction?

How would you say that “sweat” and “spunk” reflect the categories of local color and regional fiction?

Asked on by hnewberry

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

These both may be considered local colloquialism. "Spunk" is of Germanic origin and means courage, mettle, spirit: someone who has spunk has a strong sense of being able to stand up to the challenge of whatever comes along. In British English, "spunk" has taken on a slang meaning that causes some dictionaries to label it "vulgar" or "taboo." If you were writing about Northern states in America with a strong Germanic heritage, "spunk" would certainly reflect "local color." Similarly if the taboo slang meaning were used, it may reflect British local color. "Sweat" is similar in that it is colloquial, with Germanic roots, and may reflect rural local color of northern American states, as southerners may be more inclined to "perspire."

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

If you are looking for examples of local color fiction, consider Steinbeck's books. He depicts California specifically in several of them. He also worked as a reporter, and had the opportunity to explore other regions and areas of the country and describe them in detail.
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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Oh my gosh, ... in reading your question one heroine in particular popped immediately into my head:  Janie in Their Eyes Are Watching God!!!  Janie:  the absolute definition of "spunk" and "sweat."  I imagine her freeing herself from Logan Killicks and Joe Starks  I imagine her sweating in work out on the muck and confronting her true love, Tea Cake, in the context of rabies.  So, in the wake of my childhood loves of Pete (from Pete's Dragon) and Punky (from Punky Brewster) and Natty (from The Journey of Natty Gann) and Little Orphan Annie, ... Janie is one of my spunky favorites!  Thank you, Zora, for introducing her to me!  : )

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creativethinking | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Personally, I find the term "spunk" to be nearly offensive when used to describe regional fiction. When you say "local color," I'm assuming that refers to non-mainstream cultural communities that may use a non-standard dialect (as pointed out by the poster above), or have traditions/lifestyles that are part of a sub-culture. These are communities that have been devalued by mainstream, white, academic society for centuries. In this post-colonial era, it is our responsibility and privilege to give non-mainstream writing its due. Many academics these days respect regional writing with the same literary value they give to Shakespeare.

This is where the inappropriateness of "spunk" comes in... The connotation of the word is condescending. It evokes the image of being surprised by the good performance of someone considered small or weak. I think of a man watching a ten year old softball player saying, "Wow, that little girl's got spunk!" It's a "cute" word. For all these reasons, it's simply not appropriate to use when talking about writing that should be respected and studied on a level playing field with the traditional literary canon. Consider the difference between "spunk" and a word like "courage" or "fortitude." I'd prefer one of the latter two if the term were referring to the literature of my culture.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It would help us to know in which fiction these expressions occur and how they are used in order to answer your question fully. Of course, the use of slang or dialect greatly helps give texts a feeling of local colour, as by capturing the way that people spoke in the context of when the story was set greatly helps the reader to gain an impression of that time and place. It helps to bring the story alive more, as anyone who has read the fiction of Mark Twain can tell. Thus it is that "sweat" and "spunk" can be linked to particular historical contexts. Using them can therefore help bring a piece of literature to life more than using academic or more formal English.

You might like to read some great examples of regional fiction with local colour in them such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or a book like Their Eyes Were Watching God. Think of what the dialect and slang used in such novels adds to their impact, and how they help us to imagine the world in which they are set more vividly.

dleonard30776's profile pic

dleonard30776 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

This question is actually referring to two short stories by Zora Neale Hurston called "Spunk" and "Sweat". They are southern regional fiction works that are fine examples of this genre, using intricate settings, local dialect dialogue, and detailed characterization of stereotypical southern characters. 

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