Is regionalism the same as "local color"?
I am writing a paper about local color writings of the 19th century and stumbled across some definitions about regionalism. Now I am unsure if it is exactly the same or not. Maybe somebody could explain it to me, if there is a difference or not!
Thank you very much!
It's important to make a distinction between literal meaning and connotation.
When we talk about regionalism in literature, we are often talking about movements in which writers are deeply involved in validating their own regional heritage. The agrarian movement was, inter alia, polemical, arguing that southern writing was just as valid and important as the work done in Boston and New York, and making the point that people outside New York or London had important things to say and legitimate literary traditions.
Local colour does not imply this deep involvement in a regional tradition. It has a more superficial sense -- e.g. a New York writer setting a story in the south and having people say "y'all" and eat grits for "local colour".
Basically, regionalism is a literary movement validating traditions from outside major cosmopolitan centers and local colour almost a form of literary tourism that regards anything outside major cosmopolitan centers as "quaint" or "colourful."
The Free Online Dictionary defines "regionalism" as first being "political division of an area into partially autonomous regions." Later definitions mention "a feature, such as an expression, a pronunciation, or a custom, that is characteristic of a geographic area."
The definition of "local color" is given as "the interest of flavor of a locality imparted by the customs and sights peculiar to it."
Comparing these definitions, the two terms are closely related but are not exactly the same. Regionalism is based on geography and government - the divisions between areas are determined by factors such as rivers, mountains, or artificial boundaries created by state or city limits. Local color is related to the cultural aspects of an area. A particular speech pattern or style of music may stretch over several regional areas, or may be specific to one small part of a region.
For the purposes of your paper, you may be dealing with local color as helping to shape the literature you are reviewing if you are, for example, finding differences in writings from New York state as distinguished from literature from Massachusetts. They are all from the New England region but reflect unique local influences.