The last ten years have seen a reexamination of Margaret Mitchell’s depictions of Irish identity. While these readings tell us a great deal about how Mitchell depicts Irish immigration to the region, colonial history shows that the connections between Ireland and the American South go beyond the well-documented transatlantic mobility of the Irish diaspora. As such, a comparative perspective is necessary to fully understand that the novel’s famous blending of Irish ethnicity and Southern history is part of a larger transnational phenomenon; although Gone with the Wind seems to be a defiantly local literary expression, it is in fact a product of the global socioeconomic and cultural matrix of what Clukey calls plantation modernity. In this essay, Clukey seeks to move past cultural similarities between Ireland and the South in order to establish the Anglo-Irish big house and the American plantation as contiguous colonial sites—and the big-house novel and plantation fiction as contiguous literary traditions. Plantation modernity helps us answer the question of why Mitchell’s particular construction of Irish-Southern culture is so resilient—and to move beyond a recognition of the role reversal that occurs when the colonized become the colonizers—by delving further into the novel’s ideological apparatus. Most crucially, a plantation framework that considers Irish and Southern histories illuminates the novel’s construction of transnational white ethnic identity. The plantation allows us to think meaningfully about Gone with the Wind’s relationship to plantation fiction from Ireland and the Caribbean in order to see it as a production of— rather than a retreat from—transatlantic modernity.
Amy Clukey; Plantation Modernity: Gone with the Wind and Irish-Southern Culture. American Literature 1 September 2013; 85 (3): 505–530. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2079305
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