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Local Color in Literature
By Rakesh Ramubhai Patel
Regionalism and Local Color Fiction, 1865-1895
Regionalism and Local Color Bibliography
Local color or regional literature is fiction and poetry that focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region. Influenced by Southwestern and Down East humor, between the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century this mode of writing became dominant in American literature. According to the Oxford Companion to American Literature, "In local-color literature one finds the dual influence of romanticism and realism, since the author frequently looks away from ordinary life to distant lands, strange customs, or exotic scenes, but retains through minute detail a sense of fidelity and accuracy of description" (439). Its weaknesses may include nostalgia or sentimentality. Its customary form is the sketch or short story, although Hamlin Garland argued for the novel of local color. Regional literature incorporates the broader concept of sectional differences, although in Writing Out of Place, Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse have argued convincingly that the distinguishing characteristic that separates "local color" writers from "regional" writers is instead the exploitation of and condescension toward their subjects that the local color writers demonstrate. One definition of the difference between realism and local color is Eric Sundquist's: "Economic or political power can itself be seen to be definitive of a realist aesthetic, in that those in power (say, white urban males) have been more often judged 'realists,' while those removed from the seats of power (say, Midwesterners, blacks, immigrants, or women) have been categorized as regionalists." See also the definition from the Encyclopedia of Southern Literature. Many critics, including Amy Kaplan ("Nation, Region, and Empire" in the Columbia Literary History...