What Is a Regional Novel?

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A regional novel attempts to depict a specific geographic region and the people that inhabit it. A regional novel is typically set in a single area of a country and portrays the customs, culture, historical background, dialect and behavior of that region.

Early examples of the regional novel include the works of Anglo-Irish writer Maria Edgeworth. Edgeworth’s early-19th-century novels were among the first to realize the possibilities of relating character to a specific environment. Scottish novelists John Galt and Sir Walter Scott were also heavily influenced by regionalism. As the popularity of the regional novel grew, writers began to hone in their focus on more specific regions, such as George Eliot’s focus on the Midlands and the Bronte sisters’ focus on Yorkshire. In the United States, the regional novel emerged and gained popularity after the Civil War, with authors such as Mark Twain, Bret Harte and Kate Chopin. Many literary critics, including Amy Kaplan and Richard Brodhead, have argued that the American regional novel contributed to both the reconsolidation of the country after the Civil War and the building of a greater national identity in the late-19th century United States. In the 20th century, American authors, such as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, won praise as Southern regional writers.