Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Two Hundred Years of Grit and Grind explores literary texts that are set in Memphis and authored by native Memphians which offer scholars unique insight into the city of Memphis, Tennessee. While not intended as essentialized representations of an authentic Memphis, the texts in this dissertation provide an insiders view to Memphians perceptions of their local identity, one that Yi-Fu Tuan argues is but one of several much-needed perspectives into our understanding of a given place. As an entry point into a more comprehensive understanding of the South, Memphians ambivalence toward their status as residents of the Bluff City reflects Southern attitudes toward the region, but the historical and social conditions specific to Memphis have amplified this insecurity, which has in turn become endemic to the local and not merely the regional. Moreover, these texts contextualize local identity within the framework of various civil and faith-based religions specifically the Religion of the Lost Cause, Catholicism, Judaism, and hoodoo and how practitioners of these religions have both stigmatized and mythologized Memphis inside their belief systems and faith practices. Starting with Peter Taylors A Summons to Memphis and Margaret Skinners Old Jim Canaan, I first establish how Memphis has participated in the prevailing civil religion of the South, that is, the Religion of the Lost Cause, and how it has functioned for both the white Protestant and Catholic populations. With Steve Sterns The Pinch and Tova Mirviss The Ladies Auxiliary, I trace how Jewish immigrants have integrated to varying degrees into Memphis and how Jewish mythologies have come to serve the purpose of explaining local identity and phenomena. Lastly, by reading Arthur Flowerss Another Good Loving Blues and Katori Halls Hoodoo Love in conjunction with each other, I explain how, despite its marginalized status inside the Southern Bible Belt, hoodoo has operated, together with the black church, to connect black Memphians with the city at large. At each juncture, I have considered the ways that each sub-population of the city has alternately expressed its firm attachment to local identity, its absolute disregard for Memphiss redeeming qualities, or some amalgamation of both sentiments.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest
Boulden, Meredith Heath, "Two Hundred Years of Grit AND Grind: A Mythological Geography in the Literary Landscape of Memphis, Tennessee" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2886.