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This group will host discussions of all types of literary responses to living in the Rust Belt, defined here as industrial communities in the United States. Those ho have been affected by the rust belt go beyond simply those who have grown up these. In a class-based society, people who have never lived anywhere near the rust belt may hold media-inspired attitudes about the Rust Belt and those who live there. We offer fresh exposure those not from the Rust belt, fresh air and news to those from the Rust Belt.

We may overlap at times with eco-literature, ethnic and race studies, labor fiction, and regional literature.

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Text for Discusssion: Robert Beuka’s Suburbunation

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    Gloria Lee McMillan

    Dear Readers of MLA Rust Belt Literature,

    Suburbination by Robert Beuka maps changes in society wrought by spatial shifts, internalized ideologies of space and place.
    BACKDROP The MC rhetorical orientation of United States university English Departments is so naturalized because class is never a lens to use. We can infer from the rhetorical situation in college English departments that this is a naturalized state of our field of literary studies.1970s: At most, occasional lip service was given to class and urban protagonists in contemporary US. NYC being the exception. We could have city protags if they lived there in 1970s contemporary literary fiction we were reading in 20th C. American Literature class. Cheever and Updike, etc., were riding high, even feminists tended to be writing about escaping their suburban homes (Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives.) In his Suburbination, Beuka deconstructs how suburbs re-inscribed restrictive gender roles, which I never experienced. Women in cites always had options to work,. It was suburbanification and trying to produce a weekend “leisure class” that severed the link between work and home.
    METHOD OF TEXT This text characterizes post-WW II the suburb development as having a “be there or be square” attitude in PR, leaving no place for other than a suburban subjectivity.Bodies in US culture were suburban bodies in a state of grace with “nature” as opposed to city bodies who, the dominant suburban culture claimed, existed at war with nature (no matter how weak the suburban claim, given that urban sprawl was what was de-foresting and eroding pristine animal habitats, etc. That suburban claim is still treated like fact; hence, the self-righteous rhetorical tone of some ecologists. This isolation of permitted POV to the suburbs and all the rhetorical justification is a large factor in other demographic gulfs, as well. Racial gulfs often have a strong “place” component that has only been addressed via the self-justificatory suburban lens rather than the lens showing both costs and benefits of suburban development.

    Our WIN-WIN approach should be to interrogate the suburban POV as being the only permissible one in US culture, which is also trend-setting around the world. Then less urban demonization and stereotyping can occur. Robert Beuka’s Suburbination seems to be a genuine attempt to see clearly what is happening in there working of social stratification. My colleague

    RHETORIC of “MAZs” and Suburban Subjectivitities

    Mattius Rischard and I will be studying Beuka’s text and perhaps using it in our studies of MAZs (media avoidance zones) in the US. These are usually invisible less-affluent spaces. They briefly pop into media visibility when something negative occurs. Compare this to the more 360-degree coverage given to suburbs in both our culture and the media.

    This topic was also posted in: CLCS 20th- and 21st-Century, Economics & Literature.
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