By Melanie R. Benson
In Thomas Wolfe's glance Homeward, Angel, Margaret Leonard says, "Never brain approximately algebra the following. that is for negative parents. there is not any want for algebra the place and make five." Moments of mathematical reckoning like this pervade twentieth-century southern literature, says Melanie R. Benson. In fiction by means of a wide, various crew of authors, together with William Faulkner, Anita bogs, William Attaway, Dorothy Allison, and Lan Cao, Benson identifies a calculation-obsessed, anxiety-ridden discourse during which numbers are hired to figure out social and racial hierarchies and identify person worthy and identification. This "narcissistic fetish of quantity" speaks to a tangle of wants and denials rooted within the heritage of the South, capitalism, and colonialism. nobody evades participation in those "disturbing equations," says Benson, in which eager for raise, accumulation, and superiority collides with repudiation of the potential through which fabric wealth is attained. Writers from marginalized groups--including African american citizens, local american citizens, girls, immigrants, and the poor--have deeply internalized and co-opted equipment and tropes of the grasp narrative at the same time they've got struggled to wield new voices unmarked via the discourse of the colonizer. Having nominally emerged from slavery's legacy, the South is now located within the agonized area among unfastened industry capitalism and social progressivism. Elite southerners paintings to distance themselves from capitalism's dehumanizing mechanisms, whereas the marginalized yearn to gain the uniquely American narrative of accumulation and ascent. The fetish of numbers emerges to suggest the futility of both.A quantity within the sequence the hot Southern experiences
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Additional info for Disturbing Calculations: The Economics of Identity in Postcolonial Southern Literature, 1912-2002 (The New Southern Studies)
During all this time you Negroes did nothing, nothing for yourselves or for us” (267). The rhetoric of slavery here is clear, and so is the uncomfortable reversal of positions from Percy’s perspective; his moral, intellectual, and physical superiority is dangled as a method of suggesting inherent supremacy, but with unsatisfying returns on his investment. He stubbornly clings to the notion that he deserves more, demanding a material return from the blacks whom the white townspeople have supported ﬁnancially.
That is, while a requisite number of ﬁeld slaves needed to be purchased, a slaveholder could and did easily encourage the multiplication of his possessions as they mingled and reproduced among themselves (and, not infrequently, with male members of the white master’s family). The blacks who used to labor in the ﬁelds and enrich a thriving leisure class Percy now appraises as idle, teeming, and dangerous. During the devastating ﬂood of 1927 (when Percy serves as chairman of the Red Cross), he viciously censures the local Negroes with the claim that 34 Chapter One “we served you with our money and our brains and our strength and, for all that we did, no one of us received one penny.
3 In this chapter’s readings, white male writers from various positions on the social spectrum converge in their recourse to racial hierarchy as a means to secure not just social but economic mastery; and in their hunger for the fetish of number, they evince a desire for the mechanisms of capitalist ascent that reveal more about the cruel calculus of plantation math than they can perhaps imagine or intend. “The World Where People Counted and Added Things”: From Slavery to Capitalism One of the most prominent Agrarians to emerge from the group responsible for I’ll Take My Stand was the young Kentucky native and Vanderbilt graduate The Fetish of Surplus Value 29 Allen Tate.