Literature of the Antebellum South Criticism: Antebellum Fiction: Pastoral And Heroic Romance - Essay

J. V. Ridgely (essay date 1980)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ridgely, J. V. “The Southern Romance: The Matter of Virginia” and “The Southern Way of Life: The 1830s and '40s.” In Nineteenth-Century Southern Literature, pp. 32-49, 50-61. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Ridgely observes myth-making qualities in the novels of the Old South—romantic works that elaborate themes of Southern uniqueness, manifest destiny, and separatism.]


Readers of magazines like the Messenger were often treated to nostalgic glimpses of olden times; the sight of the ruined church tower at Jamestown was good for any...

(The entire section is 9542 words.)

Jan Bakker (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bakker, Jan. “Time and Timelessness in Images of the Old South: Pastoral in John Pendleton Kennedy's Swallow Barn and Horse-Shoe Robinson.Tennessee Studies in Literature 26 (1981): 75-88.

[In the following essay, Bakker probes John Pendleton Kennedy's subtle critique of the pastoral ideal in Swallow Barn and his subsequent reaffirmation of this myth in Horse-Shoe Robinson.]

An American scholar-critic has written that time is a “frightful entity” for many Southern writers. It is seen in a bad light in the works of such twentieth-century authors as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, James Dickey, Ellen Glasgow, William Styron, and...

(The entire section is 5751 words.)

Michael Kreyling (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kreyling, Michael. “The Hero in Antebellum Southern Narrative.” The Southern Literary Journal 16, no. 2 (spring 1984): 3-20.

[In the following essay, Kreyling highlights the typical adherence of the antebellum novel to the conventions of heroic romance.]

We lack a tradition in the arts; more to the point, we lack a literary tradition. We lack even a literature. We have just enough literary remains from the old regime to prove to us that, had a great literature risen, it would have been unique in modern times.

—Allen Tate, “The Profession of Letters in the South”


(The entire section is 7356 words.)

Jan Bakker (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bakker, Jan. “Some Other Versions of Pastoral: The Disturbed Landscape in Tales of the Antebellum South.” In No Fairer Land: Studies in Southern Literature Before 1900, edited by J. Lasley Dameron and James W. Mathews, pp. 67-86. Troy, NY: The Whitston Publishing Company, 1986.

[In the following essay, Bakker traces the pattern of pastoral and anti-pastoral impulses in four narrative romances of the Old South.]

                              They will bring
Forbidden sounds into the silent brake,
          And banish thence the birds, and blight
                    the spring. …

William Gilmore Simms, “The Widow of the Chief” (1839)...

(The entire section is 7313 words.)

Richard Gray (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gray, Richard. “Holding the Line in the Old South.” In Writing the South: Ideas of an American Region, pp. 31-74. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Gray studies the antebellum novels of William Gilmore Simms and his contemporaries as they valorize the South while occasionally depicting the region as slowly but continuously disintegrating.]


At the time when people like [John C.] Calhoun, [Jefferson] Davis, and [Alexander] Stephens were attempting a political defence of their region, another group of men were responding in a...

(The entire section is 9377 words.)

Charles S. Watson (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Watson, Charles S. “Simms and the Civil War: The Revolutionary Analogy.” The Southern Literary Journal 24, no. 2 (spring 1992): 76-89.

[In the following essay, Watson illuminates William Gilmore Simms's comparison of Revolutionary America with the antebellum South in his novels of the 1850s and 1860s.]

In the first part of his career, William Gilmore Simms, the leading novelist of the antebellum South, commemorated the great war for independence by recounting exciting battles and heroic deeds.1 After the sectional conflict worsened, he retained his principal subject, but with a radical difference. Now he used the American Revolution to guide the...

(The entire section is 5782 words.)

Jan Bakker (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bakker, Jan. “Twists of Sentiment in Antebellum Southern Romance.” The Southern Literary Journal 26, no. 1 (fall 1993): 3-13.

[In the following essay, Bakker emphasizes Caroline Lee Hentz's and E. D. E. N. Southworth's manipulation of conventional sentimental devices in their early romances for the purpose of disclosing “unpleasant truths” about life in the South.]

This discussion of some twists of sentiment in antebellum Southern romance is limited to two first works by female writers of the time and place: Lovell's Folly (1833), by Caroline Lee Hentz (1800-1856); and Retribution; or, The Vale of Shadows. A Tale of Passion (1849), by Emma...

(The entire section is 4425 words.)