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2016FallSymposiumURCreativityEngagement has ended
Tuesday, December 6 • 8:00am - 8:20am
Literacy, Disability, And Colonialism In Lee Smith’s Fair And Tender Ladies

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Lee Smith, in her 1988 novel Fair and Tender Ladies, provides a seminal account of the Appalachian experience during colonial activity and addresses its impact on native Appalachian people. Appalachia has long endured a history of outsiders who attempt, in various ways, to colonize it. While operating under the guise of Progressive Era savior ideologies of “improvement” and social and cultural change, this process of colonization ultimately acts as a form of physical and cultural theft, as well as cultural erasure. For my project, I am going to investigate the ways in which Smith depicts Ivy Rowe and her disabled sister, Silvaney, as physical and figurative sites of Appalachian colonial activity. Within this framework I will read Appalachian colonialism through two primary lenses: literacy and disability. I will argue that the novel’s epistolary form not only refutes narratives of Appalachian illiteracy, but also makes readers privy to an Appalachian character’s reactions to and understandings of colonial activity that they otherwise would not know. Thus, the epistolary form enables readers to reconceptualize dominant narratives of Appalachian dependency. Moreover, I am going to evaluate the ways in which colonial forces essentially define Appalachia as disabled, according to Northern conceptions of literacy and culture, and how this designation has served to justify Appalachian colonialism.


Tuesday December 6, 2016 8:00am - 8:20am
232 Karpen Hall