This article is available through Project MUSE, an electronic journals collection made available to subscribing libraries.
NOTE: Please do NOT contact Project MUSE for a login and password.
See How Do I Get This Article?
for more information.
Allen, Thomas M. "South of the American Renaissance"
American Literary History 16.3 (2004) 496-508
[Access article in PDF]
Thomas M. Allen
Why Simms? The recovery of forgotten or neglected writers from the past has been one of the most visible trends in post-1960s literary studies. But from Kate Chopin to William Wells Brown, these reclaimed writers have typically represented historically marginalized groups. Their republication has been central to the establishment of various progressive movements in the academy, such as women's studies and African-American studies. Scholars in these emerging fields needed to create basic canons of writers who would serve as legitimate objects of study. In addition, bringing such writers back into print made it possible to offer undergraduate and graduate courses in these fields. For these sound reasons, the republication of neglected writers has almost always served a foundational purpose in legitimating self-consciously political, often insurgent academic fields.
What, then, are we to make of the quiet effort currently underway to bring back into print an extensive selection of the writings of William Gilmore Simms? Sometimes called the "Cooper of the South," Simms was a proslavery South Carolinian whose historical romances, literary criticism, and social and political commentary seem distinctly out of place in the company of other recovered nineteenth-century authors. Consider the following lines: "Democracy is not levelling—it is, properly defined, the harmony of the moral world. It insists upon inequalities, as its law declares, that all men should hold the place to which they are properly entitled. The definition of true liberty, is the undisturbed possession of that place in society to which our...