Dr. Laura L. Runge
LIT 6394: Literature of Place: Florida
"Homeplace: a site of resistance" by bell hooks (in course docs)
"Sweet Home" by Lucy Lippard (chapter one,pp. 22-31, in course docs)
Discussion of Kinnan Rawlings' work, place and home
Notes and Discussion Questions:Beginning with Rawlings' The Yearling I would like for each of you to map the significant works in this class. Please obtain a Florida map, either online or in a road map or other print form, OR you can use Google Earth.
As you read, mark the place names and highlight these in some form on your map.
What do you learn from this exercise? Doing this may give us a different appreciation for place, especially as we will be visiting some of these areas on our field trips.
Place Names and History: Consider the idea of Fodderwing seeing a Spaniard walking in his environment. Why does
this intrigue Jody? Why does he look for the Spaniard? What does this represent?
Nature Writing: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings offers us some of the finest nature writing on central Florida available. Note as you read the specificity of place, plants, animals, and the author's connection to nature. How would you characterize her craft as a nature writer? What are the implications of this writing for a construction of place? What are the implications for the creation of literature? Are these similar or different?
Historical context: The Yearling is set in the years after the Civil War, which we know because Penny served in the
confederate army, and occasionally we meet a character affected by the war. What does this historical context mean for the story?
Concepts of Home: both Lippard and hooks identify the homespace with gendered norms, the site of woman's upaid and undervalued labor, but each draws different conclusions about it. Lucy Lippard writes about home or "domesticity" as potentially confining, and homeplace as experienced differently for women than for men. bell hooks writes about the radical political implications of the work of black women in providing a space to resist the dehumanizing effects of racism and sexism. How might these reflections on home help you understand some of the gendered and racial dynamics in The Yearling and Cross Creek?
What does it take to turn Baxter Island into a home? How does it differ from other places in the novel? Consider these questions from the perspectives of the three main characters: Jody, Penny, Ory.
Animal-human relations: please begin to notice the construction of animal-human relations in the novel and begin to theorize how this binary characterizes Florida literature. We will be returning to these questions and this text later in the semester to focus on this.
Examine some of the contradictions that Jody grapples with as he "comes of age" in this novel. For example, consider Jody's reaction to killing the buck: "I wisht we could git our meat without killin' it" (128).
Do some general research on Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's life. Consider her reflections in the opening chapters of Cross Creek. Why might she name her memoir after a place? How does this writing differ from The Yearling?
Reflect on some of her observations of place: "There is of course an affinity between people and places," (10). What is the affinity she bears for the Creek?
How do the people of the Creek know that she is there to stay? Why is this significant?
Of the road she says, "I have walked it in ecstasy, and in joy it is beloved. Every pine tree, every gallberry bush, every passion vine, every joree rustling in the underbrush, is vibrant. I have walked it in trouble, and the wind in the trees beside me is easing. I have walked it in despair, and the red of the sunset is my own blood dissolving into the night's darkness. For all such things were on earth before us, and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them to be comforted" (14).
"When I came to the Creek, and knew the old grove and farmhouse at once as home, there was some terror, such as one feels in the first recognition of human love, for the joining of person to place, as of person to person, is a commitment to shared sorrow, even as to shared joy" (17).
In "Place as Historically Contingent Process," Allan Pred argues for three empirically based studies to test his theory of structuration, the last of which is the development of individual consciousness. While it is debatable how "empirical" any study of consciousness can be, he suggests such a study might be on a single book. "Finally, there is sense of place, not as something that stands on its own, but as a phenomenon that is part of the becoming of indvidual consciousness and thereby inseparable from biography formation and the becoming of place. When juxtaposed with both time-geography and structuration theory, even single books can occasionally convey a great deal about some of the underlying elements of sense of place in a specific place over a given period of time" (292).
How might a work like The Yearling or what you know of Cross Creek demonstrate such a sense of place as the complex dynamic between the nature, power relations, individual paths and institutional projects over time in a given place?