By Sandra A. Zagarell

About Sandra A. Zagarell

Sandra A. Zagarell is Donald R. Longman of English at Oberlin College. A senior editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature, she publishes on postbellum regionalism, on narratives of community, and, most recently, on the queer Americanness of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady.


The keyword “region” may seem self-evidently place based, both culturally and economically. But this commonplace understanding of regions as natural effects of a stable geography misses a central paradox: historical processes of modernization have created “places” that then appear to preexist or be peripheral to the modern. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a region as “a large segment of a surface or space, especially on the earth, or a specified district or territory.” It thus registers that regions are relational—a region is part of something beyond itself—but only implicitly. Only the fourth definition, “an area of interest or activity, a sphere,” recognizes human involvement in regions’ creation and thereby suggests that regions are not simple effects of natural geography. Considered historically, regions have been created and re-created in conjunction with the unfolding of global capitalism, the ceaseless movement of populations, and the consolidation of nation-states as well as uneven economic …

Disciplinarities, Nature, Places
Pages ·