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Dear AppalachiaReaders, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878$
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Emily Satterwhite

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130101

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130101.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Best-Selling Appalachia

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Dear Appalachia
Author(s):

Emily Satterwhite

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813130101.003.0001

The introduction links Appalachian stereotypes to the region's presumed rurality, isolation, lack of refinement, and sense of community. In popular fiction, these qualities have suggested Appalachia's welcome difference from the perils of metropolitan America. Section One discusses how fan mail illuminates the cultural work performed by best-selling Appalachian-set fiction for white readers in multiple eras: fiction produced Appalachia as a place apart; offered a sense of identity and community; and facilitated the circulation of power by promoting readers' status, pride in nation, and rationale for managing difference. Fan mail demonstrates that highly mobile cosmopolitan readers who feared the costs of upward and geographic mobility played a critical role in affirming an idealized version of Authentic Appalachia. Indeed, readers' physical mobility may have spurred the success of all literary regionalism; thanks to its comforting construction of rural places as rooted. Section Two examines readers' faith in authors as authentic representatives of regions and contends that it makes little sense to consider authors “insiders” or “outsiders” to fictional worlds they create. Section three advocates “reception geographies” as a methodological tool for assessing the historical consequences of texts. Section four contextualizes chapter summaries within an overview of popular representations of Appalachia over time.

Keywords:   Authentic Appalachia, identity, regionalism, reception geographies, authenticity, cultural work, stereotype, popular fiction, fan mail

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