All-American Redneck

- Variations on an Icon, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Dixie Chicks


All-American Redneck
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In contemporary culture, the stereotypical trappings of "redneckism" have been appropriated

for everything from movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" to comedy acts like Larry the

Cable Guy. Even a recent president, George W. Bush, shunned his patrician pedigree in favor

of cowboy "authenticity" to appeal to voters. Whether identified with hard work and patriotism

or with narrow-minded bigotry, the Redneck and its variants have become firmly

established in American narrative consciousness.

This provocative book traces the emergence of the faux-Redneck within the context of

literary and cultural studies. Examining the icon's foundations in James Fenimore Cooper's

Natty Bumppo--"an ideal white man, free of the boundaries of civilization"--and the degraded

rural poor of Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road," Matthew Ferrence shows how Redneck

stereotypes were further extended in "Deliverance," both the novel and the film, and in

a popular cycle of movies starring Burt Reynolds in the 1970s and '80s, among other manifestations.

As a contemporary cultural figure, the author argues, the Redneck represents

no one in particular but offers a model of behavior and ideals for many. Most important,

it has become a tool--reductive, confining, and (sometimes, almost) liberating--by which

elite forces gather and maintain social and economic power. Those defying its boundaries,

as the Dixie Chicks did when they criticized President Bush and the Iraq invasion, have

done so at their own peril. Ferrence contends that a refocus of attention to the complex

realities depicted in the writings of such authors as Silas House, Fred Chappell, Janisse Ray,

and Trudier Harris can help dislodge persistent stereotypes and encourage more nuanced

understandings of regional identity.

In a cultural moment when so-called Reality Television has turned again toward popular

images of rural Americans (as in, for example, "Duck Dynasty and Moonshiners"), "All-

American Redneck" reveals the way in which such images have long been manipulated for

particular social goals, almost always as a means to solidify the position of the powerful at

the expense of the regional.

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476 g
20 mm
157 mm
233 mm

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