James Still

Critical Essays on the Dean of Appalachian Literature

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About the Book

Best known as the author of the acclaimed novel River of Earth (1940), Alabama native James Still is one of the most critically acclaimed writers of Appalachian literature. This compilation of scholarly essays (new and reprinted from hard-to-find sources) exploring Still’s literary work is the first book-length collection of its kind and features contributions from leading scholars and writers, including Wendell Berry, Fred Chappell, Jim Wayne Miller, Jeff Daniel Marion, Diane Fisher, Dean Cadle, and Hal Crowther. The book explores the full range of Still’s literary interests, with separate chapters devoted to River of Earth, his short stories, poetry, folkloric writings, and writings for children.

About the Author(s)

Ted Olson lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, and teaches Appalachian Studies and English at East Tennessee State University.
Kathy H. Olson teaches English and writing classes at Appalachian State University. She lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Ted Olson and Kathy H. Olson
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3076-5
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9221-3
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Introduction Ted Olson      1

I. EARLY LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL INFLUENCES      5
Rivers of Earth and Troublesome Creeks: The Agrarianism of James Still
H. R. Stoneback      7
Headwaters: The Early Poetics of James Still, Don West, and Jesse Stuart
Chris Green      21
Jesse Stuart and James Still: Mountain Regionalists
Dayton Kohler      40

II. RIVER OF EARTH      47
The Still Life in River of Earth: Exploring the Novel’s Biographical Context
Carol Boggess      49
Sense of Place in River of Earth
Ruel E. Foster      64
A Vision of Change: Appalachia in River of Earth
Martha Billips Turner      70
“This Mighty River of Earth”: Reclaiming an Appalachian Masterpiece
Ted Olson      80

III. THE SHORT STORIES      89
Slick as a Dogwood Hoe Handle: Craft in the Short Stories
Joe Glaser      91
“Menfolks Are Heathens”: Cruelty in the Short Stories
Fred Chappell      96
“The Nest”: Images of Lost Intimacy
Ron Willoughby      103
Creative Energy in “Mrs. Razor”
Joyce A. Hancock      107
Looking the Story in the Eye: “I Love My Rooster”
Randolph Paul Runyon      115

IV. THE POETRY      123
Introduction to The Wolfpen Poems
Jim Wayne Miller      125
The Poetry: “The Journey of a Worldly Wonder”
Jeff Daniel Marion      132
Still’s Poetry and the Western Tradition
Aleksis Rannit      138
“The Stillness After”: Reflections on the Poetry
Robert M. West      141
“The Long Way Around”: Space, Place, and Syntax in “White Highways”
Diane Fisher      147

V. THE WRITINGS ABOUT AND FOR CHILDREN, AND THE FOLKLORIC WRITINGS      157
“We’ll have to do something about that child”: Representations of Childhood in the Short Stories
Kathy H. Olson      159
Journeys of Childhood in the Fiction
Carol Boggess      166
“Read my tales, spin my rhymes”: The Books for Children
Tina L. Hanlon      174
The Wolfpen Notebooks: A Record of Appalachian Life
Jim Wayne Miller      190

VI. THE MAN AND HIS ART: REASSESSMENTS      195
Man on Troublesome
Dean Cadle      197
Jim Dandy: James Still at Eighty
Jim Wayne Miller      209
The Seamless Vision
Fred Chappell      222
A Master Language
Wendell Berry      229
Quality of Life, Quality of Art
Jane Mayhall      232
A Man of the World
Hal Crowther      242

Index      247

Book Reviews & Awards

“the first book-length collection of James Still appreciation/criticism”—Appalachian Heritage; “the first book-length collection of scholarly essays…detailed”—Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine; “scholarly examination…notable literary figures…critical essays…entirely readable”—Metro Pulse; “sheds considerable light on the life, writing and the man”—Appalachian Journal.