Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies by Jon SmithFinding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies by Jon Smith

Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies

byJon Smith

Paperback | May 1, 2013

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 156 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


The new southern studies has had an uneasy relationship with both American studies and the old southern studies. In Finding Purple America, Jon Smith, one of the founders of the new movement, locates the source of that unease in the fundamentally antimodern fantasies of both older fields.

The old southern studies tends to view modernity as a threat to a mystic southern essence-a dangerous outside force taking the form of everything from a "bulldozer revolution" to a "national project of forgetting." Since the rise of the New Americanists, American studies has also imagined itself to be in a permanent crisis mode, seeking to affiliate the field and the national essence with youth countercultures that sixties leftists once imagined to be "the future." Such fantasies, Smith argues, have resulted in an old southern studies that cannot understand places like Birmingham or Atlanta (or cities at all) and an American studies that cannot understand red states.

Most Americans live in neither a comforting, premodern Mayberry nor an exciting, postmodern Los Angeles but rather in what postcolonialists call "alternative modernities" and "hybrid cultures" whose relationships to past and future, to stability and change, are complex and ambivalent. Looking at how "the South" has played in global metropolitan pop culture since the nineties and at how southern popular and high culture alike have, in fact, repeatedly embraced urban modernity, Smith masterfully weaves together postcolonial theory, cultural studies, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and, surprisingly, marketing theory to open up the inconveniently in-between purple spaces and places that Americanist and southernist fantasies about "who we are"have so long sought to foreclose.

JON SMITH is an associate professor of English at Simon Fraser University. He is coeditor of Look Away! The U.S. South in New World Studies and is coeditor with Riché Richardson of The New Southern Studies series. RICHÉ RICHARDSON is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis.
Title:Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural StudiesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9 × 6.03 × 0.6 inPublished:May 1, 2013Publisher:University of Georgia PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0820345261

ISBN - 13:9780820345260

Look for similar items by category:


Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction. What Does an American Studies Scholar Want? 1

Part I. Disrupting Everyone's Enjoyment

One. Songs That Move Hipsters to Tears: Johnny Cash and the New Melancholy 29
Two. German Lessons: On Getting Over a Lost Supremacy 50
Three. Our Turn: On Gen X, Wearing Vintage, and Neko Case 65

Part II. Reconciliations with Modernity

Four. Two Ties and a Pistol: Faulkner, Metropolitan Fashion, and "the South" 89
Five. Flying without Wings: Race, Civic Branding, and Identity Politics in Two Twenty- first- century American Cities 106
Six. In the Garden 126

Notes 137
Works Cited 151
Index 165

Editorial Reviews

Provocative and provoking on every page, Finding Purple America is not calculated to please; yet even in a book committed to 'disrupting everyone's enjoyment,' Smith's dazzling pop-culture readings and witty prose remain accessible, compelling, and-dare I say it?-entertaining throughout.

- Jennifer Greeson - author of Our South: Geographic Fantasy and the Rise of National Literature