Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What is a Midwesterner, anyway?

I've been enjoying a book that isn't easy to find. Ten top Midwest historians tackle the question of what this region without characteristics could possibly be, in The American Midwest: Essays on Regional History (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001), coedited by Andrew R. L. Cayton and Susan E. Gray. So far I'm especially fond of Cayton's essay on the "anti-region" and Purdue's John Lauritz Larson's unsparing "Pigs in Space," which grew out of his not altogether positive experience at Conner Prairie.

Cayton sets up the issue through literature: Quentin Compson, a Faulkner character, is obsessed with his relationship to his native region, the South. "The South paralyzed him, reduced him to passivity, and paved the way to suicide. Quentin believed that he could never hope to understand himself without understanding the South; that his identity was the creation of a unique interaction of peoples and environment; that he was rooted in a place that he could not escape even in the cold world of New England." {140}

What Midwesterner, real or fictive, has that strong a feeling about his or her home region?

2 comments:

Laura said...

Hello! Thanks for the mention about our book. Just wanted to let you know that a paperback edition of the book came out last year under a new title: The Identity of the American Midwest. It is available from Indiana University Press at: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=41697

Laura said...

Oops, guess the URL was too long for my last post. Anyway, you can find the book by going to our main site:
http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/

and searching by the title. Thanks!