This essay isolates, analyzes, and contextualizes a prevalent character type in nineteenth-century American fiction that it calls (following Ina Ferris) the “remnant.” Although remnants appear in the earliest American experiments in fiction, the type becomes truly ubiquitous in postbellum regionalist writing. Depicted as living relics or belated leftovers from superseded cultural epochs, remnants, the essay claims, project the distinctly modern modalities of displacement and ontological insecurity into the regionalist texts they inhabit, thus unsettling the conventional critical readings of the genre as a backward-looking nostalgic form while also opening anew the question of regionalism’s complicated appeal for its contemporary readers. While beginning and ending with Sarah Orne Jewett’s representative remnant figure, Captain Littlepage, the essay also surveys several lesser-known examples, discusses the type’s peculiar characteristics, and speculates on the reactions it drew from its original audiences.
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Nir Evron; “Fog-Shaped Men”: The Remnant Figure in Postbellum American Regionalism. Genre 1 December 2019; 52 (3): 179–205. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-7965792
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