With the dawn of the new south immediately following the civil war, southern literature metamorphosed to reflect a sense of nostalgia for what had been and no longer was. The literary canon of the time contained thematic expressions of yearning over the “Lost South” and the tradition and stability most writers felt the old South had once embodied. However, different writers utilized contrasting literary styles to convey this message. For instance, Thomas Nelson Page utilizes a sentimentalist, romanticist style of writing, while John Crowe Ransom achieves aesthetic distance in his modernistic approach to writing. Both Page and Ransom were proponents of the antebellum southern way of life. They contrasted what had previously existed in the Old South through the depiction of grand estates and chivalric deeds against what now existed in a dilapidated, dehumanizing fashion, the New South. However, while they both had a similar message, their strategies of addressing the issues were expressed in vastly different voices, diction, and figures of thought.
It is important to note, that while this paper will take a look at the dissimilar literary modes of construction utilized by both Page and Ransom, the texts for comparisons used in this essay are short-story (Page), versus poems (Ransom). Obviously, there will be few minor contextual limitations in comparing literary styles between two separate genres. However, the different writing styles will be evident via a comparison of the conative and emotive functions within the texts themselves.
First, we will begin our literary critique with Thomas Nelson Page. Page, a highly popularized southern writer with a lifetime that chronologically spans the years from 1853 to 1922, grew his literary career when local color fiction was in strong demand. Thus, Page’s creation and trends toward the romantic style of writing are extremely evident. William Andrews points out that “In Ole Virginia (1887), his first collection, Page depicted the Old South romantically, describing a land of beauty and charm, a people of grace and virtue, a society of racial hierarchy and, for the most part, harmony” (309).
Page was a romanticist, and as such wrote in a highly nostalgic fashion. For example, his story Marse Chan he used the voice of Sam, an ex-slave, in an autobiographical context to assist in the personalization of the text. Sam’s glowing account about his goodly master and the sense of warmth and generosity disposed on him and all of the characters involved in his life, was meant to connect with his audience on an emotional level. Throughout his story he created a scene of noble gentlemen and ladies, of contented slaves, and a society ordered by the laws of chivalry. As stated by Sam himself, “Dem wuz good ole times, marster – de bes’ Sam ever see! Dey wuz, in fac’! (314).
Ironically, Page begins this narrative...