PJAS 13-2

Marianne Kongerslev and Clara Juncker
Appalachia as Trumpland: Honor, Precarity, and Affect in Literature from the Mountain South
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 13 (Autumn 2019), pp. 179-191

Abstract: Literary and cultural texts by southern poor whites in the hills of the Ozarks and Appalachia and southern migrants in Rustbelt Ohio explode with feelings such as hatred, desperation, and anger, resulting from the continual precaritization and marginalization of the mountain communities. In (auto)biographical texts as well as in literary fiction, the ?hillbilly? community is represented as self-segregated, proud, and independent, with special notions of honor and loyalty. Exploring the (dis)connections between the literary emotions of the people of the Mountain South and the code of southern honor that has produced and sustained them, this article argues that the anxious and angry emotions that Donald Trump taps into as a political strategy are not new, but rather have been building throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries. The first manifestations that this precarious affective structure was forming can be seen in this regional literature, illustrating the potential in explorations of literary ugly feelings (Ngai, 2005) of marginalized southerners. Thus, the article uncovers how poor whites position their precarious existences in Trump?s USA and how they employ various affective strategies to articulate their whiteness and their anxiety.

Key words: Affect, Mountain South, Precarity, Memoirs, Masculinity, Southern Honor, Trump

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