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Mary Austin’s Southwest
An Anthology of Her Literary Criticism
Edited by Chelsea Blackbird and Barney Nelson
"If Nationality means anything—and in [the American] case it couldn’t mean race—it must mean the unconscious response of a people to their natural environment."
Celebrated and controversial author Mary Austin (1866–1934) lived in and wrote about her beloved Southwest, a place that has shaped and been shaped by three distinctive groups: Indian, Spanish, and Anglo. Austin discovered in the Southwest that these cultures blended languages, races, and religions, creating what she believed were unique versions of Catholicism, nature worship, ceremonies, and visions. Those beliefs worked their way through her literary criticism, leading her to ground-breaking ideas of place-based influences, narrative techniques, and dramatic development.
In Mary Austin’s Southwest, editors Blackbird and Nelson shine light on Austin’s work, revealing her to be a significant trailblazer for literary diversity. With thoughtful introductions to selected writings on Austin’s prose, drama, and poetry as well as an annotated checklist of her published Southwestern literary criticism, this collection is a celebration of a rich mixed heritage as expressed through the written word.
Chelsea Blackbird received her master’s degree in English from Sul Ross State University. She writes and works with her husband on a ranch in west Texas.
Barney Nelson is associate professor of English at Sul Ross State University.
Table of Contents:
Part I. The Chisera's Fire: General Introduction
Part II. The Great Regional Ceremony: Introduction to Prose
1. One Smoke Stories
2. Speaking of Bears
3. The Folk Story in America
4. Supernaturals in Fiction
5. Folk Literature
6. The American Form of the Novel
7. Regionalism in American Fiction
8. Art Influence in the West
9. Non-English Writings II: Aboriginal
10. Regional Culture in the Southwest
Part III. "Teatro de Corrales": Introduction to Drama
11. Community Make-Believe
12. Gesture in Primitive Drama
13. American Indian Dance Drama
14. Primitive Stage Setting
15. A New Medium for Poetic Drama
16. Letter to the Editor of Theatre Arts Monthly
17. A Drama Played on Horseback
18. Story of the Guadalupe Play, Matachines Dance
19. The Trail of the Blood
20. The Delight Makers
21. Native Drama in Our Southwest
Part IV. A Southwestern Rhythm: Introduction to Poetry
22. Introduction to The Path on the Rainbow
23. Letter to the Editor of The Dial
24. The Meter of Aztec Verse
25. The Road to the Spring
26. Indian Poetry
27. Poetry in the Education of Children
28. Excerpt from "Cactus Country"
29. Geographical Terms from the Spanish
30. Rimas Infantiles of New Mexico
31. Sources of Poetic Influence in the Southwest
32. John G. Neihardt's Expression of the West
33. The Body, from The American Rhythm
34. The Song-Makers
Annotated Bibliography of Austin's Articles on Southwest Literature
Praise and Reviews:
"Many readers are familiar with Mary Austin as a brilliant nature writer, but few are aware of her achievements as a literary critic. Mary Austin’s Southwest reveals Austin’s breadth and keenness as a critic devoted to multiculturalism, gender issues, and the environment years before these became popular academic topics. In compiling and contextualizing Austin’s critical and theoretical essays, Blackbird and Nelson have done a wonderful service for today’s readers."
— Scott Slovic, editor, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment