Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Witness to ReconstructionConstance Fenimore Woolson and the Postbellum South, 1873-1894$

Kathleen Diffley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030253

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030253.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of
Subscriber: null; date: 20 June 2018

Constance Fenimore Woolson and the Origins of the Global South

Constance Fenimore Woolson and the Origins of the Global South

Chapter:
(p.36) (p.37) Constance Fenimore Woolson and the Origins of the Global South
Source:
Witness to Reconstruction
Author(s):

John Lowe

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781617030253.003.0003

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter creates an expansive view of the Caribbean as another Mediterranean with its own Ottoman Empires and yet, thanks to Woolson, with an early sense of hemispheric connectedness. The result is a transformative return to Woolson’s Great Lakes “islands” as well as a vision of Florida dubbed as “ the crossroads of culture,” a matter of some moment for a transnational writer who would later embrace Europe.

Keywords:   Caribbean, Mediterranean, Great Lakes islands, Florida

Constance Fenimore Woolson’s attempt to instill a new awareness of American identity, of hemispheric and Atlantic connectedness, is figured in her arresting metaphor for the shape of Florida, a “long, warm peninsula” that she sees “stretching like a finger pointing southward from the continent’s broad palm into the tropic sea.”1 After years of living in Florida, where two of her novels and many of her short stories are set, Woolson was conscious of the state’s relation to the Caribbean and the polyglot peoples of the Americas. The most obvious import of the peninsula’s “finger” is the directed link with Cuba and the Antilles; but Florida also points to a Creolized culture, where the peoples of the Caribbean jostle, interact, and create new hybrid forms of expression and material culture. As the Caribbean writer Edward Kamau Brathwaite has noted, creolization amounts to “a cultural action—material, psychological, and spiritual—based upon the stimulus/response of individuals within the society of their environment and—as white/black, culturally discrete groups—to each other.”2 In several of her short stories, Woolson describes such communities, but the creolized town of Gracias (based on St. Augustine) in her novel East Angels (1886) proves exemplary. Two churches, Anglican and Catholic, sit side by side, as do their parishioners, and yet the public occasions of the town involve everyone. Although a perceived ethnic and racial hierarchy prevails, Woolson describes throughout her novel a site of cultural interdependency, hybridity, and often harmony.

Both East Angels and Woolson’s Florida short stories reveal that her work is ripe for new critical assessment. Most scholars reasonably associate postcolonial theory with the literatures produced by formerly subject people in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. A few years ago, however, Walter Benn Michaels startled many of his American Studies peers by suggesting that Thomas Nelson Page’s forgotten novel (p.38) of Southern Reconstruction, Red Rock: A Chronicle of Reconstruction (1898), might profitably be read through the lens of postcolonial theory. After all, white Southerners saw their region as a victim of Northern invasion and colonization from 1865 to around 1917, and many Confederates migrated to Mexico and Brazil. The disenfranchised Confederates remaining, many without homes, were functionally or mentally “exiles,” which Woolson discovered almost immediately upon her arrival in the postwar South.3

Most of the characters in Woolson’s Southern narratives are in mourning for their “lost homeland,” even if they are still living in it. The decaying mansion, the tattered rags of former finery, the barren fields, the empty quarters—all of these are decried by blacks, whites, Minorcans, and others. Many figures leave, in a Southern diaspora that extends into the American West, Europe, and often the tropics south of the South. But in Woolson’s time, Florida was part of a similarly unknown territory, a virtual “tropical island.” The Southern communities she depicts are far from the postwar nation’s urban centers and most of them are “islands,” either in reality or in function. As such, they bear comparison to what Antonio Benitez-Rojo has termed the “repeating island” aspect of Caribbean culture. Benitez-Rojo refers to the ways in which the cultures of the Caribbean have been ignored and marginalized, and he identifies several factors that have contributed to this condition, including fragmentation, instability, reciprocal isolation, uprootedness, cultural heterogeneity, lack of historiography and historical continuity, contingency and impermanence.4 All of these conditions emerged in the postbellum South and in Woolson’s fiction. She would seem to be playing a doubled role as author in these works—namely, to make artistic and aesthetic capital out of such conditions, but also to displace or reform them. Her histories of Florida highlight the long trajectory of events that began in the contact era and encompass the centuries of Spanish and/or Native American dominance. At the same time, she embraces cultural difference and takes her readers beyond the usual racial binary of reconstruction fiction and mythology.

Like Benitez-Rojo, Woolson recognized that this complicated, heterogeneous culture was awash in a “soup of signs,” and she could hardly hope to decode them all. Like Woolson, Benitez-Rojo attempts to analyze aspects of Caribbean culture in an effort “not to find results, but processes, dynamics, and rhythms that show themselves within the marginal, the regional, the incoherent, the heterogeneous, or if you like, the unpredictable that coexists with us in our everyday world.”5 While it may be difficult to move outward from the nineteenth-century conventions of genre that tend to shape Woolson’s fiction, it is wise to be newly attentive to the margins of her stories and, above all, to the details and methods in her mode of physical description, a mapping that gives context and sometimes revelation to ostensibly central plots.

(p.39) Similarly intent on shedding light where none has been, Édouard Glissant and his fellow theorist, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, find a solution to the isolation of discrete islands in the Caribbean through the element that unites them—that is, the sea. This monumental fact of nature creates similarities for cultures, shaping and connecting them, particularly in terms of folklore and myth. Not surprisingly, Woolson’s Florida characters travel on steamers, yachts, trawlers, fishing vessels, or canoes because, often as not, they too are surrounded by water—oceans, sounds, lakes, rivers, swamps. These bodies of water are described idyllically or realistically, as scenes of the sublime or as turbulent, dangerous cauldrons. They are links to the outside world, avenues into the primeval, sources of life through the harvest of the sea. They are also the watery paths to death, as is most dramatically seen in the story “Sister St. Luke” and in several inset stories in the novel East Angels. Perhaps because of this Atlantic ambiance, it is only in Florida settings that Woolson continually refers to Africa, a presence beyond the ocean that is suggested by the Africans and African Americans she encounters. This is but one of many ways in which the Black Atlantic registers in her work. Her waterway connectedness recalls Glissant’s observation about the subterranean convergence of Caribbean history, particularly in terms of the thousands of black bodies thrown overboard from slave vessels. In Glissant’s evocative formulation, these events have grown “submarine roots” that are “floating free … extending in all directions … through its network of branches.”6 As Woolson’s characters suggest, these submarine histories link more than just African Americans.

For Benitez-Rojo and many others who have studied both the South and the Caribbean, the great engine that developed this broad region was the plantation. When Woolson chose to situate her fiction in her own time rather than in the antebellum period, it was inevitable that she would write about the temporary destruction of what has been called the “plantation-machine.”7 The great sugar mills, the cotton farms, the orange groves—all these are failing in Woolson’s Florida, one reason many assume she was influenced by Thomas Nelson Page and Thomas Dixon, or perhaps Mary Noailles Murfree and others associated with the Appalachian school of romance, such as James Fox Jr. or James Lane Allen. All of these writers, however, published after Woolson’s stories began appearing in the 1870s. By choosing this moment of decline and despair, she sets in motion the thematics she most cared about—namely, those of dignified poverty, renunciation, and constant struggle, including the struggle toward social progress, both personal and communal, which ultimately can lead to redemption and renewal. Her delineation of the coastal South—particularly Florida—is unique and comes from her own close inspection. She must therefore be considered as an inventor of Southern local color fiction, Appalachian writing, and (as I will argue) transatlantic fiction of the Global South basin.

(p.40) As a case in point, her story “Rodman the Keeper” begins this way: “In the little town … Everything was monotonous, and the only spirit that rose above the waste was a bitterness for the gained and sorrow for the lost cause. The keeper was the only man whose presence personated the former in their sight, and upon him therefore, as representative, the bitterness fell … in sudden silences … in withdrawals and avoidance, until he lived and moved in a vacuum … so Rodman withdrew himself, and came and went among them no more” (11–12).8 This opening tableau emphasizes “silences,” one of Woolson’s dominant motifs, for she constantly maintains that the people of the South—be they British, Spanish, cracker, African, or Native American—have been “silenced” by defeat and colonization. Henry James recognized this aspect of her work in speaking of her Southern tales’ high value, “especially when regarded in the light of the voicelessness of the conquered and reconstructed South.”9 The silence of colonized/conquered people is a note frequently sounded in the theory and discourse of postcolonial peoples, whose chronic economic dependency has often been noted; in Martinique, for example, Aimé Césaire long ago remarked on a people “so strangely garrulous yet silent.”10 In all of his work, Martinique’s Édouard Glissant has sought to rupture this silence. As he puts it,“Caribbean people should not entrust to others the job of defining their culture.”11 Similarly, the reactionary Virginian Thomas Nelson Page, speaking of the silencing of the South during Reconstruction, once noted, “We are not a race to pass and leave no memorial on our time. We live with more than Grecian energy. We must either leave our history to be written by those who do not understand it, or we must write it ourselves.”12 While Woolson, from New England and the Midwest, might be seen as one of Glissant’s “others” or Page’s “those who do not understand,” her embrace of the South, and her presentation of both its virtues and vices through the eyes of her Northern characters, actually historicizes and ennobles Southern struggles. In her fiction, she gives the region a multitude of voices, many of them redolent of both the wider South below Florida and the myriad connections of the Atlantic world.

Woolson knew, of course, that a grieving North might lend a more sympathetic ear to Southern chronicles if approached through mourning, the very maneuver of postcolonial literatures that rehearse wars of oppression, exile, and genocide from a foundation in grief and memorial. The mood of death and ruin that dominates the beginning of “Rodman the Keeper” has a sequel later when the title figure relates his personal history, one that involves the deaths of his parents and his two brothers, the loss of the family home, his fortune, and his health, as well as the admission that he sought the Keeper’s job because the Southern climate would aid his recovery. Miss Bettina, similarly grieving over her dead kin though obstinate in her loyalty to the Lost Cause, seems a possible mate for Rodman, especially after she comes secretly to the Union cemetery to honor the dead despite her pride. Yet Miss (p.41) Bettina’s rituals of mourning and Rodman’s take on very different meanings, and the two ultimately part; Rodman kisses her hand just before she leaves for a lonely teaching job in Tennessee. Still, Miss Bettina might return one day, a hope partly engendered when Rodman goes to the new Yankee owner of her old family home and requests cuttings of the vines she planted there.

In this story, Woolson atones for her “darky” imagery by featuring a moving procession of the town’s black folk to honor the fallen Yankees who helped set them free. On national memorial day, they ask Rodman to “head … de processio’” so they can scatter flowers on the graves. As Woolson describes the scene, “It was a pathetic sight to see some of the old men and women, ignorant field-hands, bent, dull-eyed, and past the possibility of education even in its simplest forms, carefully placing their poor flowers to the best advantage. They knew dimly that the men who lay beneath those mounds had done something wonderful for them and for their children; and so they came bringing their blossoms, with little intelligence but with much love” (33).

Woolson’s attention to the alternate perspective of nondominant ethnic peoples takes a different form in the collection’s second story, “Sister St. Luke.” The story opens by confronting three pairs of “Spanish eyes” on an island near Pelican Reef in the former Spanish territory of Florida. Carrington and Keith, two Anglo friends vacationing at the lighthouse, are the real narrative focus, not the “swarthy Pedro” or the “figure in black” of the nun Woolson’s title references. Sister St. Luke is at odds with Pedro’s wife, who is not Spanish or Catholic but a fierce Vermont Protestant who married Pedro unaccountably since she hates the “lazy tropical island” and the Catholic Church in equal measure. As keeper of the old lighthouse that was built by the Spanish, remodeled by the British, and then redone by the United States, the Minorcan Pedro echoes Rodman’s “keeper” role. What is “kept,” in both the lighthouse and the Union cemetery, is a marker of history and a symbol of warning, here against the reefs of the world. Woolson signals the link to the Caribbean by referring to the ships that sweep by on their way to the “Queen of the Antilles” (presumably Cuba) and the “far Windward and Leeward Islands” (44). Later, Keith imagines a sea-bean drifting from “one of the West Indian islands … let us say Miraprovos—a palmy tropical name, bringing up visions of a volcanic mountain, vast cliffs, a tangled gorgeous forest, and the soft lapping wash of tropical seas” (62). This image is in keeping with Keith’s romantic view of nature; upon finding Pedro’s lost boat in the marsh, he had earlier rhapsodized, “a salt marsh is not complete without … an abandoned craft, aged and deserted, aground down the marsh with only its mast rising above the waste” (56). The figure rehearses the basic elements of the Romantic ruin as a metaphor of the relation between man and nature; however, the mast rising above the waste also mirrors the situation of the story’s virtually abandoned lighthouse. Woolson pauses on the history of that tower attached to a (p.42) crumbling Spanish fort: early “keepers” evidently kept a sharp eye out for “damnable Huguenot” sails, which find their current referent in Pedro’s New England Puritan wife. Woolson also acknowledges the rest of the Atlantic; the waves in “Sister St. Luke” surge from “the distant African coast,” which had, of course, occasioned the great war a century before that had devastated the United States.

The story also provides a detailed description of the twenty-mile-long island, with its salt marsh, plants, crabs, jellyfish, gulls, pelicans, hawks, and eagles, and the varieties of its seaweed. Sister Luke stands in for the reader as Carrington and Keith educate her about the Florida world that seems so strange, a world that helped encourage the tremendous postbellum vogue for travel writing that Woolson had already mined. Building by accretion, the story conversely strips away the nun’s habit. Pedro’s Protestant wife removes the wimple, leaving only a veil and, during the jaunt to the ridge and marsh, Keith sweeps that off, too. This effort to remake and educate the nun works contrary to the recognition of a wider world and the uncovering of a Spanish past, specifically a Spanish galleon that emerges from the eroding sands.As the sunbathing Keith puts it,“I never imagined I was lying on the bones of this old Spaniard” (63). In Woolson’s story, history becomes a palimp-sest, for Sister St. Luke is essentially a descendant of the old Spanish sailor, and the Minorcans like Pedro have helped create the paradise that the Anglos gratefully inhabit away from Northern snow and ice. All these factors gradually erode any concept of a “superior” Anglo “race.”

Instead, Woolson paints a portrait of Sister St. Luke’s convent life that is serene and beguiling, replete with doves, the convent garden, orange trees, and soft music. As a site of global reckoning, the convent belongs to Florida’s complex history, which is seen through those early “Spanish eyes.” But the story also reads Florida as Northerners Keith and Carrington see it: what they “teach” Sister St. Luke proceeds from the “lessons” they have learned themselves. Pedro’s actual marriage to his Vermont Protestant and the impossible marriage Woolson nevertheless imagines between Keith and Sister St. Luke both cross cultural and religious lines, and they point to the suddenly hybrid nature of American history and society.

Woolson’s fascination with tropical landscapes takes a different and disquieting turn in “The South Devil,” a tale that opens at the edge of a burned plantation home, as robust orange grower Mark Deal and his consumptive sibling Carl enjoy the warm December sun. The house was burned by Indians and the narrator recalls the Spanish past when plantations flourished: “the belief is imbedded in all our Northern hearts that, because the narrow, sun-bathed State is far away and wild and empty, it is also new and virgin, like the lands of the West; whereas it is old—the only gray-haired corner our country holds” (142). Woolson excels in her description of this cypress-shadowed realm, with its myriad plants and animals that insinuate an atmosphere of menace. Yet Carl sees beauty where Mark sees danger. (p.43) Both, in fact, are present. Mark shoots a moccasin that is about to spring, but Carl has climbed the swamp canopy where “the long moss hangs in fine, silvery lines like spray … mixed with … air-plants, sheafs, and bells of scarlet and cream-colored blossoms” (149); but dreaming or dozing, he fell. Here Woolson rehearses the thematic from Melville’s great chapter in Moby-Dick,“The Mast-head,” where Ishmael warns “pantheists” at watch atop a ship about dreamily gazing at a moonlit sea and then falling to their death. Mark also sees nature as his enemy because he has to hack his living out of it. Woolson’s detailed description of the moccasins Mark kills repeatedly shows both her revulsion and her fascination, almost admiration.13

Woolson’s scenes in the Southern swamp exemplify what other narratives of exploration and travel made of the postwar South and anticipate later encounters with the exotic and even the surreal. In 1939, Aimé and Suzanne Césaire began publishing a journal in Martinique entitled Tropiques, which featured the work of surrealists such as André Breton. On their behalf, Suzanne urged readers to embrace “the domain of the strange, the marvelous and the fantastic, a domain scorned by people of certain inclinations. Here is the freed image, dazzling and beautiful, with a beauty that could not be more unexpected and overwhelming. Here are the poet, the painter, and the artist, presiding over the metamorphoses and the inversions of the world under the sign of hallucination and madness.”14 The Césaires saw surrealism operating as a revolutionary force; for Aimé, it was part of a “call from Africa.” Certainly Woolson’s presentation of the swamp and its flora and fauna in these fantastic scenes resonates with the methods of African writers whose native landscapes speak so seductively to the aesthetic imagination.

The intoxicating beauty of the South Devil is enough to lure Carl, but in Woolson’s story and elsewhere the setting proves even more laden. As a psychologically symbolic site, the swamp often embodies the repressed in human consciousness, which Freud has treated as a central concern. More historically, the swamp has been seen as both refuge and site of freedom, one that had already registered powerfully in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and Dred: A Tale of the Dismal Swamp (1856) as well as in antebellum slave narratives and the fiction spun out of the Haitian Revolution.15 But there Woolson hesitates. The crisis of her story comes when a false friend named Schwartz gets Carl drunk, cheats him at cards, and demands Mark’s hidden money. Instead of fleeing to the swamp, Schwartz books passage for Key West, where “smuggling and illegal trading” abounded and “all the harbors, inlets, and lagoons of the West Indies were open” (163). For Woolson, South Florida and the islands beyond extend the negative figuration of the American tropics, whose serpents are men. The portrayal of the South Atlantic as a lawless terrain allies that alternative Florida to mythologies of the frontier and has much to do with the tangled web of imperialistic conquest and piracy that was well established by the mid-nineteenth century.

(p.44) As “The South Devil” demonstrates, Woolson examines Florida’s peninsular topography from swamps to palm regions, from scrub to shore, and discovers what Mark’s New England leaves out, the Caribbean waterways that ushered Carl into the wetlands and took Swartz south.16 In the story “Felipa,” in fact, the title character is so racially marked as “dark-skinned, yellow-eyed” that she seems almost a part of the landscape. A fisherwoman dressed in men’s clothing, she has only seen three women in her life when vacationers Catherine and Christine arrive at their enchanted Florida “Paradise” with their prejudices intact. As is usual with Woolson, they disparage Felipa’s Minorcan relatives as “slow-witted … part pagan, part Catholic, and wholly ignorant; their minds rarely rose above the level of their orange-trees and their fish-nets” (199). It is therefore no surprise when Christine confides to Catherine,“Teach a child like that, and you ruin her … ruin her happiness” (200), a convenient twisting of Rousseau’s theory of the Noble Savage that has been repeated for centuries in colonial cultures.

The comment also suggests the story’s multiple perspectives. When Catherine finally paints Felipa and her dog Drollo, Christine sees an image of “an ugly little girl,” where Catherine means to embody “latent beauty, courage, and a possible great gulf of love” (203). Just as in “The South Devil,” friends view the same thing very differently, a point Woolson makes repeatedly, as her fiction circles round an object or idea from various angles. Even Felipa contributes: when she dresses up in borrowed finery and Catherine laughs, she drags the artist to the mirror and cries, “You are not pretty either … Look at yourself!” (209). Here the colonizing gaze is reversed. With these shifts in perspective, Woolson reveals not only contrary opinions but also unpleasant truths about the dominant culture and perhaps the complicity of her readers. Although narrated in English, Woolson’s story is actually multilingual: the Anglo characters all speak Spanish with Felipa, but when she appears to be learning the English they use to shut her out, they resort to French. Spanish, English, French—these are, of course, the languages of the colonized Caribbean.

The story ends shockingly when Felipa, who has adored both Christine and her lover Edward, turns on the latter after Christine agrees to marry him, thereby shutting Felipa out of what she had seen as a trio. Having eaten paints and let a snake bite her, Felipa stabs Edward in the arm, then asks to die at Christine’s feet with “her white robe over me” (220). Although the girl recovers, the confrontation gains in dimension as Woolson’s readers acknowledge their own assumptions about Felipa’s “dog-like” devotion, which has become suicidal rage. It is further worth pondering how the great slave revolts of the South and the Caribbean put an end to such assumptions when the myth of black devotion evaporated.

The gulf between white authority and black agency also informs the most problematic story in Woolson’s collection,“King David,” which concerns a white Northern teacher in a black Southern school. Woolson initially deals in stereotypes; (p.45) students are as “black as the ace of spades” and as wild as “mustangs.”Yet the story has a Black Atlantic ring: the teacher tells his charges they should strive for an education so they may become agents of change in Africa. Unfortunately, says the story’s narrator,“Cassius and Pompey had only a mythic idea of Africa; they looked at the globe as it was turned around, they saw it here on the other side, and then their attention wandered off to an adventurous ant who was making the tour of soodan and crossing the mountains of Kong as though they were nothing” (255). Sharon Dean has tartly—and correctly—observed that David King’s mission is the ultimate form of colonialism, since he seeks to create disciples who will serve as ambassadors for his idea of an even more debased culture, that of Africa.17 Commenting from a related angle, Édouard Glissant speaks of the attempt to instill mimicry in the colonized. “Because the method of transformation (domination by the Other) sometimes favors the practice of approximation or the tendency to derision, it introduces into the new relationship the insidious promise of being remade in the Other’s image, the illusion of successful mimesis” (15).18

The arrogance of colonial authority is just as evident in “Up in the Blue Ridge,” perhaps the collection’s most impressive story. It’s a small detail that interests me, but it orients my conclusions about the collection as a whole and it comes in the story’s brief final line: “The wild, beautiful region is not yet conquered” (338). In this last pronouncement, the moonshiners are seen as representative, not only of the mountain people but of the proud, blue-hazed mountains themselves. The Appalachian mountaineers, although Americans, are in effect in a world apart, a world they protect against the encroachments of the outside civilization. Woolson seems to be paying tribute to a Southern variant of the maroons, those bands of escaped slaves who populated the swamps and mountains of the South and the Caribbean alike. Similarly, maroon culture had been crucial to Nat Turner’s band in Virginia and Toussaint L’Ouverture’s army in Saint Domingue, as it still was to the Seminoles in the Florida swamps. In Woolson’s story, Wainwright accuses the moonshiners of murder, but Brother Heade points out that what has been going on is “war.”

This host of Southern stories leads to several conclusions. First, Woolson obviously drew from the Plantation tradition but with a difference; she approached it with Northern eyes and through Northern characters. Second, she was keenly conscious that Florida was a different part of the South, and her constant concern for the Spanish and Indian past—even if she tended to portray both heritages, along with African American culture, as racially inferior—speaks to her interest in transnational issues that would eventuate in her removal to Italy. Third, her almost biological fascination with Southern flora and fauna dictates that she be considered, perhaps for the first time, as part of the group of Caribbean writers who have made capital out of the basin’s ecology.

(p.46) What is more, Woolson’s stories of the postwar South paved the way for East Angels (1886), whose stern binaries dissolve in the circumCaribbean sun. Henry James reserved his highest praise for this novel when he wrote of Woolson that “she has expended on her subject stores of just observation and an infinite deal of the true historical spirit.”19 Like “The South Devil,” East Angels opens with a meditation on the difference between the tropic blue skies of Florida and faraway ice and snow. The Northern visitor, now with the historic Puritan name of Winthrop, basks in the sun while the Southern Garda yearns to experience winter, perhaps because her New England mother has told her about the colder climes. The exotic, Spanish aspect of Garda’s home, “East Angels,” is signaled by the name of the hamlet, Gracias-a-Dios, and Woolson will elaborate the transatlantic and Caribbean influences on this place throughout the narrative. Despite her displacement in Florida, Garda’s mother, Mrs. Thorne, was a staunch Confederate during “the late unhappy context” (6), and she applauds the British for their sympathy with the Lost Cause: “they were with us—all their best people—as to our patriarchal system for our servants” (6). The Thorne family, however, has been in Florida for generations, first during the British occupation and then afterward under the Spanish, when a Thorne married a Duero; their son also married a Spaniard, which accounts for Garda’s doubled ancestry. As Mrs. Thorne puts it, “Edgarda is the portrait of her Spanish grandmother painted in English colors” (7), a clever construction that embeds an assertion of racial purity. Garda hardly makes Florida attractive to Winthrop, for she asserts that the cultivation of cotton and cane is impossible now without slaves, and that the new industry of orange growing requires advisors not yet present. Moreover, there are the heat, the swamps, the snakes.

The exotic nature of Garda, who is not at all the usual plantation belle, is reinforced when Winthrop associates her “naturalness” with Native American maidens he had encountered and did not much care for out West. But Garda is somehow different, which indicates a shifting racial line in Winthrop’s categories of exotica. His ethnic spectrum, as is usual in Woolson’s postwar stories, includes African Americans. Despite their poverty, the Thornes have a “jet-black” retainer named Raquel, a fourth-generation servant who is loyal to the family. Significantly, she and her husband, the gardener Pablo, both have Spanish names, hinting at cross-racial sexuality during the Spanish regime.

Winthrop’s tour of East Angels allows Woolson to display her expertise with flora and fauna, as the avenue of live oaks, the cultivated magnolias, the Cherokee roses, the romantic ruins, the towering palms, the orange arcade, and pet crane Carlos all get considered. The house, though decayed, has a specifically tropical magnificence; with pomegranate wainscoting and shell masonry construction, the building forms a parallelogram around a Spanish courtyard and features a balcony with green blinds. Winthrop’s introduction to this and other such houses is a revelation: (p.47) he discovers “tradition and legend … which had nothing to do with Miles Standish … [having] more richness of color and a deeper perspective than that possessed by any of the rather blank … American history farther north.” Woolson continues, “Like most New-Englanders, he had unconsciously cherished the belief that all there was of historical importance … was associated with the Puritans.” Thinking of Europe, he muses, “When Raphael was putting into the backgrounds of his pictures those prim, slenderly foliaged trees which he had seen from Perugino’s windows in his youth, the Spaniards were exploring this very Florida shore” (16). This reference to the Italian Renaissance brings a forceful congruity to privileged art and New World conquest, while drawing the parameters of the Americas into a different configuration. Before the Puritans sailed for New England, Winthrop sums up, “on this Southern shore had been towns and people, governors, soldiers, persecutions, priests” (16). Woolson takes care to extend the Atlantic world when she describes the sea as stretching “eastward to Africa,” thereby establishing a link that is manifest in her black characters and the qualities they have contributed to a hybrid Southern culture.

Woolson also brings Indians into the narrative through the romantic ruin Winthrop sketches, now grown over with the yellow jessamine that was Woolson’s favorite flower and the subject of one of her best poems. The ruin is an old sugar mill destroyed by the Seminoles, a site whose history is related somewhat impressionistically by the biased local doctor, Reginald Kirby. “Canebrake, swamp, hammock … ague, sunstroke, everglade; fever, scalping, ambuscade—and massacre, massacre, massacre!” (28). Winthrop actually has an ancestor named “Dizzy Dick” who fought in these wars, and Dr. Kirby remembers the magical Indian words: “the Withlacoochee, the Caloosahatchie, the Suwanee, the Ocklawaha” (28). As it turns out, Dizzy Dick fought side by side with the doctor’s brother, and the uncle for whom Winthrop was named went to Central America to “see the Aztecs” (69), proof positive that it’s a small transnational world.

Garda’s grandmother taught her Spanish, and Kirby’s sister taught her French. Thus, Garda commands the three languages of the Caribbean and can converse with her neighbor, Adolfo Torres, born in Cuba but educated in Spain; he speaks only Spanish, and his last name has several meanings in that language: tower, tower block, castle, and rook. Perhaps to reflect the suspected African heritage of Cubans, Woolson describes him as a “dark-skinned youth, with dull black eyes … ungainly” (38–39). He strongly contrasts with the Spaniard Manuel Ruiz from a neighboring estate, a “remarkably handsome young man” who is compared to a romantic Italian tenor; Manuel is also an English-speaking American. While Woolson’s characterization of Torres might raise some eyebrows, it is important to note that Garda is preparing to marry him, not Ruiz, at the end of the story. As the most “Spanish” of the characters and the darkest one among them, he represents the Moorish taint of (p.48) Spain. A “tower” of sorts, he is associated with one of the key icons of the Spanish flag, the tower of Castile, but perhaps also with Moro Castle in Havana, his hemispheric reference. Edgarda Thorne, his beloved, has a feminized form of Edgard for her moniker, but everyone calls her Garda, which relates to the Spanish verb “guardar” (to keep, to put away, to look after, to guard, to observe) and with the reflexive “se” (to be careful not to). Garda, more than any of the other characters, truly “sees” nature, and she guards against yielding to the conventional strictures of her culture(s). As a child of a New Englander, she naturally inherits Emersonian traits of self-reliance and independence, which many readers have translated as egoism and selfishness.

But Woolson clearly invites readers to see both her and Torres as criollos of the Americas, and it is not surprising that they wind up together. Only the fact that Woolson is an Anglo author suggests that she might be expected to “improve” her characters, as Mrs. Thorne might say, by further “Saxonizing” them. To be fair, the silencing of Torres, a “rook” who must play a patient waiting game, demonstrates Woolson’s broader pattern of silencing the Latino culture that is dominant in Gracias-a-Dios. And yet her linkage of this community with both Latin America and Spain—and, through racial suggestiveness, with Africa—recalls Glissant’s insistence on the subterranean links of related cultures, a reference that is similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of cultural rhizomes with their underground connections between blades of grass.20 East Angels discourses at length on the history of Gracias-a-Dios, which was named by grateful Spanish sailors fleeing a storm. Woolson delineates between the original British and later immigrants from Georgia and the Carolinas, thus elevating the Thornes. But there are more recent newcomers: predators who want to open health resorts, land speculators, builders of canals, and drainers of swamps who want to rape the landscape and ignore its history while pronouncing gracias “grashus.” This further delineation has frequently been voiced by natives of the Caribbean, and in fact the “invaders” in both Florida and points south had counterparts in the earlier pirates, wreckers, and smugglers who holed up (as Schwartz of “The South Devil” well knew) in the Florida Keys. This range of attitudes toward ethnicity means that when Mrs. Thorne tells Garda, “Mr. Winthrop is not another Manuel or Torres” (52), Garda agrees. She and Manuel and Adolfo see that this ultra-Anglo must be respected like a father, a remark that is far from what her mother intended. Garda ignores the racial aspect of the older woman’s distinction, while simultaneously acknowledging hierarchy among New World cultures.

Woolson situates connections between persons of African descent in this way as well. East Angels makes comedy out of the contrast of Celestine, a Yankee really named Minerva Poindexter, and the black servants of the nearby Seminole Inn, (p.49) which furnishes meals for the visitors; these servants, including Telano Johnson, have never seen a white retainer before (Celestine is Winthrop’s aunt Katrina’s maid). Here Woolson inserts more Caribbean color, for Telano, thinking Minerva a witch, shakes a voodoo fetish at her and practices conjure, what Woolson terms “pagan rites.” Minerva, by contrast, loves Telano’s songs and hums “these bones,” thinking the words refer to rheumatism. A fervent Protestant, Minerva is appalled that they are living over an old Franciscan monastery. It is significant that Woolson’s ethnic humor often comes at the expense of the ostensibly “white” figures, who offer comic relief but who also provide a sense of the multiethnic texture of the community and its complicated class totem pole.

Throughout the novel, the theme of courtship and marriage nonetheless predominates, spiced by the possibilities of cross-ethnic unions. The complications surrounding Garda are increased when Lucian Spenser joins the circle, for he incites jealousy, particularly from Manuel and Adolfo; Spenser is deemed just as handsome as Manuel, and he is an Anglo descended from Virginia’s Byrd family. Once again the racial line of distinction emerges, although it is complicated by the fact that Spenser speaks Spanish and takes an interest in Torres. This “mixing” thematic takes a further linguistic turn in Woolson’s description of the fishermen:“their English was by no means clear, it was mixed with Spanish and West Indian, with words borrowed from the not remote African of the Florida negro, and even with some from the native Indian tongues; it was a very patchwork of languages” (180). The metaphor is an interesting one, in that quilted patchwork forms a unity—in fact, a useful one. Woolson’s reference is not to Babel or to impurities; she comments instead on the métissage of circumCaribbean languages.

It is a mingling with a motive. When Winthrop buys East Angels from Mrs. Thorne, Woolson has another tailor-made opportunity to provide Spanish-era history as the deeds are examined. The original grant to Admiral Juan de Duero in 1585 was directly from the Spanish crown and was regranted later by the British sovereign. The property survived three raids by buccaneers and several by Indians. Some of the latter group, in fact, are still in the area; it turns out the Northern visitor Margaret has made a shirt for the Sioux chieftain Spotted Tail, which prompts Winthrop’s declaration,“they don’t want shirts, they want their land … We should have made them take care of themselves long ago, but we shouldn’t have stolen their land” (207). Yet Winthrop himself has not paid much for East Angels. The colonization of Indian lands thus seems a parallel to the Northern colonization of Florida. Here Woolson comments on the ways in which legal maneuvers play key roles, often corrupt and corrupting, during eras of transition and colonization.

In a similar fashion, she undercuts the Northern-born Mrs. Thorne, who declares as she lies dying:

(p.50) in my heart I have always hated the whole thing … I have always ranked the lowest Puritan far, far above the very finest Spaniard they could muster … they caught the poor Indians and made them work for them; because they imported Human Flesh, they dealt in negro slaves! … Their country here will be opened up, improved; but not by them. It will be made modern, made rich under their very eyes; but not by them … They will dwindle in numbers, but they will not change … Could I leave Garda to that? Could I die, knowing that she would live over there … on that forlorn Ruiz plantation, or … in that tumble-down house of the Girons—that Manuel with his insufferable airs, or that wooden Torres with his ridiculous pride, would be all she should ever know of life and happiness—my beautiful, beautiful child? (220–21)

This arrogant Saxon also provides a moving and extensive list of the labors and thrifts she has had to endure to make ends meet over the years, with the idea that her sacrifices have been exceptional. She confesses that, in her determination to make herself over as a Thorne,“I even swallowed slavery—I, a New England girl … abolitionist to the core! … I covered every inch of myself with a southern skin. But if any one thinks that it was easy or pleasant, let him try” (224). She never considers that her neighbors must have gone through similar trials.

Tellingly, when Mrs. Thorne is buried, her coffin is borne by eight former slaves, who have not appeared before in the narrative. In the cemetery, the tombs have a local touch: they are made of coquina, a stone generated from shells and shell fragments, and the characters one by one follow the Florida custom of casting handfuls of sand into the open grave. As is so often the case, the black characters are not portrayed individually, but in anonymous groupings: “the negroes of the neighborhood … sang their own funeral hymn; their voices rose with sweetness in the wildly plaintive minor strains” (231). The group of eight blacks is then repeated when Torres comes courting, rowed by eight negroes who have been taken from their work in the sugar fields. In East Angels, Torres is “dark,” so having eight black men row him to Kirby’s situates him as “white” in the bichromatic arrangement of power in the postbellum South. When Garda’s guardian Kirby rejects Torres, it is apparently because of his age, but that rationale is a cover for a deeper-seated bias, as the use of the coded term “boy” confirms. This scene is followed, however, by the novel’s presentation of Torres’s thoughts as he reacts to Manuel’s fury at being rejected in favor of Lucian; here Woolson reveals a more cerebral side of Torres that the monolingual English-speaking world does not suspect.

Woolson’s examination of racial “types” would hardly be complete without a consideration of poor whites. In the pine barrens where Winthrop canters, he meets for the first time a “cracker” who is “astride his sorry pony,” while “[p]acked into the two-wheeled cart behind him, [are] all his family, with their strange clay-colored (p.51) complexions and sunburnt light hair.” Woolson continues, “They were a gentle, mummy-like people, too indolent even to wonder why a stranger should wish to know [directions]” (274). There is reason to wonder at the way Woolson constantly applies the epithet “indolent” to most of the residents of Florida, including Latinos, blacks, whites, and Indians, especially when her wealthy Northern main characters (who might expend energy on walks and rides) are hardly fountains of industry. Later, a boating party composed of Garda’s friends, together with Lucian and Rosalie Spenser, encounters poor-white “squatters” in the ruin of a house, where the father has just arrived with a bear killed in the swamp and the older boys add their fish. Lucian imagines they are happy:“if I had to be very poor … let it be in Florida! … I don’t want them to rise … too much ‘rising,’ in my opinion, is the bane of our American life. The ladder’s free to all, or rather the elevator; and we spend our lives, the whole American nation, in elevators” (314). As Lucian has just married an heir-ess, his remarks could hardly be more callous or hypocritical.21

Woolson creates yet another shock when Lanse Harold finally appears after adulterous years in Rome. Winthrop, now in love with Lanse’s wife, Margaret, meets him in the little post office on the pier at the St. John’s River, where Lanse is sitting in the United States chair. This location suggests the transatlantic correspondence and travel that dominates the novel and creates the suggestion of a crossroads, one that had long been open to the Indians, the Spanish, the frontiersmen, and now the modern folk changing the face of the state and the postwar South. Winthrop’s arrival on the Hernando (named after De Soto) and the coonskin-wearing postmaster suggest this rich past, but the postmaster’s archaic dress also contrasts sharply with the wardrobe of the present. Amazingly, Woolson’s Europeanized Lanse takes Winthrop in a birchbark canoe to an inlet, where old Joe (born in Africa) shows them a huge rattlesnake and alligator he has killed. It is an odd place for what turns out to be a confession:“Great turtles swam along … water-moccasins slipped noiselessly into the amber depths from the roots of the trees as the canoe drew nearer; alligators began to show themselves” (412). Moored among the reptiles, Lanse tells the story of his rupture with Margaret years before and thereby reveals his adulterous conduct as well as Margaret’s saintly silence about the matter. In a further unexpected development, a black boy (speaking heavy dialect, of course) comes by with the white girl he is baby sitting, and a moccasin falls into their boat. Lanse dives in, saves them, and eventually is stricken and paralyzed. Margaret must come to him, but only after Winthrop apologizes to her for the long years of his scorn. To her credit, Woolson refuses to make Lanse a simple villain; the incident, at once exotic and riveting, complicates his character while adding much to the intersecting vectors of nature and ethnicity.

Woolson’s Florida fictions are actually akin to concepts of nature that had been retained by Africans in the New World. The bond between man and a sacral natural (p.52) world is at the center of various forms of New World religions such as Vodun and religious figures such as Loco, the “he of the trees.”22 Woolson’s fiction displays a fixation with trees, especially the pine but also the palm, the palmetto palm, the live oak, and, most mystically, the orange tree. Indeed, East Angels has always depended on the cultivation of orange trees; the property, which has been owned in turn by Native Americans, the Spanish Douros, the New Englander Mrs. Thorne, and the New Yorker Evert Winthrop, is finally owned by Margaret Harold, who announces her intention to replant the orange orchard. She thereby prefigures the Northern exodus to Florida in the years to come. More specifically, Woolson makes the nearby swamp a site of refuge, reverie, and meditation. When Margaret and Winthrop must brave bad weather in a swamp canoe to find the missing Lanse, old Rose, terrified, won’t go: “Please missy, no. Not inter de Munloons in der night, no! Ghosessess dar!” (464). She and Dinah sing a spiritual as Winthrop and Margaret push off:“Didn’t my Lord delibber Dan-yel, Dan-yel?” (470). But the desperate trip into the heart of swamp darkness brings out the full arsenal of Woolson’s tropical colors as she sketches a scene less Southern than Caribbean in its tangled vegetation, strange beauties, and morbid reptilian dangers.

In addition, the swamp has always been the locale for numerous love stories, among other freedoms. It is no accident that the search for Margaret’s husband in the nocturnal world of the tropical swamp waters engenders the most intimate scenes between Margaret and Winthrop, much as a dangerous voyage would later engender a fated love story for Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. Henry James commented on Woolson’s “remarkably fine” interlude when he observed: “the picture of their paddling the boat by torchlight into the reaches of the river, more or less smothered in the pestilential jungle, with the per-sonal drama, in the unnatural place, reaching an acute stage between them—this whole episode is in a high degree vivid, strange, and powerful” (14). Although the swamp has been a locus for refuge and freedom in African American literature, white Southern writers have taken a more gothic view of this terrain. In this regard, a novel like East Angels has a great deal in common with John Pendleton Kennedy’s Swallow Barn (1832), which is often seen as the first great example of the plantation genre. Kennedy’s Northern participant-observer takes readers on an exhaustive tour of plantation cultures (replete with stereotypes of poor whites, black slaves, and white Southern belles) that reveals the self-sufficient nature of the rural South. As in Woolson’s Florida, a swamp then plays a doubled role in the narrative: the poor are sustained by its resources, but the more aristocratic characters fear it and are sometimes sickened. As always, the need for a guide, a local who knows the landscape, introduces a Dantean aspect to Kennedy’s narrative that the Renaissance “wood of error” in epics like Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Spencer’s The Fairie Queen makes all the more familiar. Woolson thus draws on a rich heritage in (p.53) East Angels, where the struggle against an extravagant, beautiful, dangerous, and seductive environment offers a metaphor for unruly emotions.23

Like “Rodman the Keeper” as well as Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady (1881), Woolson’s novel concludes with a scene of rescue, which brings Margaret and Winthrop’s love into crisis and eventuates in their honorable if bitter accession to Lanse and social norms. While Margaret and Lanse as transplanted Anglos play central roles, Woolson imagines a social fabric that includes Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Africans, and the rural poor of the Midwest and the South. Moreover, these figures are often connected to other lands—to Cuba, Mexico, the West Indies, and Spain. With so strong a presence of Southern cultures in East Angels, Woolson almost turns her deracinated white Protestants into disasporan wannabes. Ultimately, her refusal to imagine a single identity for the South brings her in congruence with a later age and the postnational study of the Americas. As Glissant has stated,“the struggle against a single History for the cross-fertilization of histories means repossessing both a true sense of one’s time and identity: proposing in an unprecedented way a revaluation of power.”24 Woolson did not quite share this agenda, but she let her strong feeling for Florida guide her to a surprisingly broad vision of its peoples and landscapes. It was a vision that followed the pointing finger of the state southward in a proleptic gesture, one fraught with the problems and possibilities she was among the first to engage.

Notes

(1) . Constance Fenimore Woolson, East Angels (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886), 26.

(2) . Edouard Kamau Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 296.

(3) . As I recently noted elsewhere, Edward Said has remarked that exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience, the stuff of both romanticism and modernism. Yet today exile is generally conceived in political terms. The current age “with its modern warfare, imperialism, and the quasi-technological ambition of totalitarian rulers,” Said has observed,“is indeed the age of the refugee, the displaced person, mass immigration.” See John Lowe, “Reconstruction Revisited: Plantation School Writers, Postcolonial Theory, and Confederates in Brazil,” Mississippi Quarterly 51.1 (Winter 2003/2004): 6. Said’s comments first appeared in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 174. As my earlier essay demonstrates, the era of Southern Reconstruction can easily be read through the lens of displacement, disruption, exile, and loss, the postcolonial quandary that begins as William Safran sees it with “expatriate minority communities” that seem strangely appropriate in the occupied South. Defeated by war and displaced by peace, Confederates lost their nation and then their homeland when Union troops patrolled postwar military districts while white Southerners were disenfranchised and emancipated slaves were elected to political office. The resulting diaspora of Confederates was nonetheless tied, as Safran predicts of all displaced communities, to a “myth about their original homeland,” which encouraged a (p.54) conscious hope of restoration binding stranded Confederate communities together and buoying those “exiled” even in the homeland they knew. For Safran’s more elaborate discussion, see “Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return,” Diaspora 1.1 (Spring 1991): 83–84. In Plantation School narratives, ex-Confederates retain a powerful memory of an exalted pastoral past.

(4) . Antonio Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective, trans. James E. Maraniss (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 1.

(5) . Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, 3.

(6) . Édouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, trans. Michael J. Dash (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989), 67.

(7) . Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, throughout.

(8) . Constance Fenimore Woolson, Rodman the Keeper: Southern Sketches (1880; rpt. New York: Harper & Bros, 1886), 11–12. Woolson’s title story was first published in the Atlantic Monthly (March 1877): 267–77. Page references will be noted parenthetically in the text and will be to the later collection in which Woolson’s several Southern stories appeared.

(9) . Henry James, “Miss Woolson,” in Constance Fenimore Woolson, ed. Clare Benedict (London: Ellis, 1930), 9.

(10) . Cited in Michael J. Dash,“Introduction,” in Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, xxii.

(11) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 6.

(12) . Cited in John Lowe, “Re-Creating a Public for the Plantation: Reconstruction Myths of the Biracial Southern ‘Family,’” in Bridging Southern Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), 221.

(13) . Woolson’s focus on consumptive Northerners coming to Florida in a desperate effort to shake their disease has a parallel in George Washington Cable’s classic “Jean An-Poqueline” (1883), a story set in a Louisiana leper colony and centered on two devoted brothers, one strong and one afflicted. The brothers also live on the edge of a swamp, which is eventually drained as New Orleans advances. Since Woolson’s story was published first, it is worth wondering about her spreading influence. Carl’s desire to make music for his violin from the sounds of the swamp also recalls the method of modern composer Messiaen, whose “Oiseaux Exotiques” (1955-56) does exactly what Carl intends, but for an orchestra.

(14) . Cited in Robin D. G. Kelley, “A Poetics of Anticolonialism,” in Aimé Césaire, Discourses on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (1933; rpt. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 15.

(15) . Just a few years ago, the Guadeloupian writer Maryse Condé invoked the swamp in a similar fashion for its maroon communities of escaped slaves. In her novel Crossing the Mangrove, translated by Richard Philcox (New York: Anchor-Doubleday, 1995), a central character feels that “[o]nly there, among the giant trees, the mabri, châtaignier, candlewood, mastwood and Caribbean pines, did he feel at home” (48). Glissant puts this summons in another way: “The forest of the marron was thus the first obstacle the slave opposed to the transparency of the planter. There is no clear path, no way forward, in this density. You turn in obscure circles until you find the primordial tree. The formulation of history’s yearned for ideal, so tied up with its difficulty, introduces us to the dilemma of peoples today still oppressed by dominant cultures” (83).

(16) . An anthology like Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, recently assembled and edited by Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), could have profited from acknowledging writers such as Woolson. Though not Caribbean themselves, they detail a terrain that must be considered, especially as Florida has become more, rather than less, Caribbean in both population and culture.

(17) . Sharon L. Dean, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Homeward Bound (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 64.

(p.55) (18) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 15.

(19) . James,“Miss Woolson,” 10.

(20) . Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari developed the concept of the rhizome—the interconnected systems of underground roots that link surface vegetation—as a way of conceptualizing a sense of myriad and nonhierarchical approaches to and departures from discrete points, particularly as they appear in the processes of evaluation and interpretation. Deleuze and Guattari’s system was created in order to avoid the frequent impasses of binary categories and to achieve a horizontal spectrum, rather than the more traditional vertical and linear systems of prior analysis. Their most cogent expression of this system is found in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 7–13.

(21) . Decades later, by contrast, another Northern transplant to Florida, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, made these “crackers” her main characters and depicted a hard-working and resourceful folk, whose way of life is threatened by the advent of Northern industrialists and entrepreneurs.

(22) . See Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “‘He of the Trees’: Nature, Environment, and Creole Religiosities in Caribbean Literature,” in Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, ed. Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renee K. Gosson, and George B. Handley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), 32.

(23) . Anthony Wilson has recently noted how a long declension of Southern writing has used the swamp as a bivalent symbol, both refuge and zone of infection. The dichotomy, as Wilson points out, stretches back to the mapquests of William Byrd and William Bartram before getting codified in novels by Kennedy, Simms, and Stowe, then reinvoked in the travel writings of Frederick Law Olmstead and Frances Kemble. These are all writers that Woolson likely knew well. See Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006). As Rayburn Moore has observed, Woolson repeatedly focuses on characters whose strength is seen through “selfdenial, renunciation, marginality, or ‘heroic sacrifice.’” See Constance Fenimore Woolson (New Haven, CT: Twayne, 1963), 127. Such noble qualities, Moore points out are customarily found in characters that are in some way social “outcasts.”

(24) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 93.

Notes:

(1) . Constance Fenimore Woolson, East Angels (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886), 26.

(2) . Edouard Kamau Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 296.

(3) . As I recently noted elsewhere, Edward Said has remarked that exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience, the stuff of both romanticism and modernism. Yet today exile is generally conceived in political terms. The current age “with its modern warfare, imperialism, and the quasi-technological ambition of totalitarian rulers,” Said has observed,“is indeed the age of the refugee, the displaced person, mass immigration.” See John Lowe, “Reconstruction Revisited: Plantation School Writers, Postcolonial Theory, and Confederates in Brazil,” Mississippi Quarterly 51.1 (Winter 2003/2004): 6. Said’s comments first appeared in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 174. As my earlier essay demonstrates, the era of Southern Reconstruction can easily be read through the lens of displacement, disruption, exile, and loss, the postcolonial quandary that begins as William Safran sees it with “expatriate minority communities” that seem strangely appropriate in the occupied South. Defeated by war and displaced by peace, Confederates lost their nation and then their homeland when Union troops patrolled postwar military districts while white Southerners were disenfranchised and emancipated slaves were elected to political office. The resulting diaspora of Confederates was nonetheless tied, as Safran predicts of all displaced communities, to a “myth about their original homeland,” which encouraged a (p.54) conscious hope of restoration binding stranded Confederate communities together and buoying those “exiled” even in the homeland they knew. For Safran’s more elaborate discussion, see “Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return,” Diaspora 1.1 (Spring 1991): 83–84. In Plantation School narratives, ex-Confederates retain a powerful memory of an exalted pastoral past.

(4) . Antonio Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective, trans. James E. Maraniss (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 1.

(5) . Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, 3.

(6) . Édouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, trans. Michael J. Dash (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989), 67.

(7) . Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island, throughout.

(8) . Constance Fenimore Woolson, Rodman the Keeper: Southern Sketches (1880; rpt. New York: Harper & Bros, 1886), 11–12. Woolson’s title story was first published in the Atlantic Monthly (March 1877): 267–77. Page references will be noted parenthetically in the text and will be to the later collection in which Woolson’s several Southern stories appeared.

(9) . Henry James, “Miss Woolson,” in Constance Fenimore Woolson, ed. Clare Benedict (London: Ellis, 1930), 9.

(10) . Cited in Michael J. Dash,“Introduction,” in Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, xxii.

(11) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 6.

(12) . Cited in John Lowe, “Re-Creating a Public for the Plantation: Reconstruction Myths of the Biracial Southern ‘Family,’” in Bridging Southern Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), 221.

(13) . Woolson’s focus on consumptive Northerners coming to Florida in a desperate effort to shake their disease has a parallel in George Washington Cable’s classic “Jean An-Poqueline” (1883), a story set in a Louisiana leper colony and centered on two devoted brothers, one strong and one afflicted. The brothers also live on the edge of a swamp, which is eventually drained as New Orleans advances. Since Woolson’s story was published first, it is worth wondering about her spreading influence. Carl’s desire to make music for his violin from the sounds of the swamp also recalls the method of modern composer Messiaen, whose “Oiseaux Exotiques” (1955-56) does exactly what Carl intends, but for an orchestra.

(14) . Cited in Robin D. G. Kelley, “A Poetics of Anticolonialism,” in Aimé Césaire, Discourses on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (1933; rpt. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 15.

(15) . Just a few years ago, the Guadeloupian writer Maryse Condé invoked the swamp in a similar fashion for its maroon communities of escaped slaves. In her novel Crossing the Mangrove, translated by Richard Philcox (New York: Anchor-Doubleday, 1995), a central character feels that “[o]nly there, among the giant trees, the mabri, châtaignier, candlewood, mastwood and Caribbean pines, did he feel at home” (48). Glissant puts this summons in another way: “The forest of the marron was thus the first obstacle the slave opposed to the transparency of the planter. There is no clear path, no way forward, in this density. You turn in obscure circles until you find the primordial tree. The formulation of history’s yearned for ideal, so tied up with its difficulty, introduces us to the dilemma of peoples today still oppressed by dominant cultures” (83).

(16) . An anthology like Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, recently assembled and edited by Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), could have profited from acknowledging writers such as Woolson. Though not Caribbean themselves, they detail a terrain that must be considered, especially as Florida has become more, rather than less, Caribbean in both population and culture.

(17) . Sharon L. Dean, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Homeward Bound (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 64.

(p.55) (18) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 15.

(19) . James,“Miss Woolson,” 10.

(20) . Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari developed the concept of the rhizome—the interconnected systems of underground roots that link surface vegetation—as a way of conceptualizing a sense of myriad and nonhierarchical approaches to and departures from discrete points, particularly as they appear in the processes of evaluation and interpretation. Deleuze and Guattari’s system was created in order to avoid the frequent impasses of binary categories and to achieve a horizontal spectrum, rather than the more traditional vertical and linear systems of prior analysis. Their most cogent expression of this system is found in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 7–13.

(21) . Decades later, by contrast, another Northern transplant to Florida, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, made these “crackers” her main characters and depicted a hard-working and resourceful folk, whose way of life is threatened by the advent of Northern industrialists and entrepreneurs.

(22) . See Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “‘He of the Trees’: Nature, Environment, and Creole Religiosities in Caribbean Literature,” in Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, ed. Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renee K. Gosson, and George B. Handley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), 32.

(23) . Anthony Wilson has recently noted how a long declension of Southern writing has used the swamp as a bivalent symbol, both refuge and zone of infection. The dichotomy, as Wilson points out, stretches back to the mapquests of William Byrd and William Bartram before getting codified in novels by Kennedy, Simms, and Stowe, then reinvoked in the travel writings of Frederick Law Olmstead and Frances Kemble. These are all writers that Woolson likely knew well. See Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006). As Rayburn Moore has observed, Woolson repeatedly focuses on characters whose strength is seen through “selfdenial, renunciation, marginality, or ‘heroic sacrifice.’” See Constance Fenimore Woolson (New Haven, CT: Twayne, 1963), 127. Such noble qualities, Moore points out are customarily found in characters that are in some way social “outcasts.”

(24) . Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 93.