The Outsider’s Edge: Geography, Gender, and Sexuality in the Local Color Movement

Wendy Griswold*, Anna Michelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Outsider status, especially multiple social marginalities, usually constitutes a burden. Certain combinations can be advantageous for cultural producers, however, especially when geographic marginality is part of the mix. The Local Color movement demonstrates the outsider’s edge. In mid-nineteenth century in America, print technology, reduced postal rates, and mass literacy led to the golden age of magazines. Their readers sought stories about the regional cultures that were disappearing in an industrializing nation. Local Color—fiction about places outside the northeast cultural heartland—met this demand. Local Color authors shared outsider identities – geography, gender, and sexuality—that characterized and shaped the movement. Comparison with authors in the adjacent genres of Bestselling, Sentimental, and The Atlantic Monthly fiction reveals that multiple outsiderness (1) was not typical for authors of the period, and (2) advantaged women from the geographic periphery, especially those with unconventional sexual careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-647
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • gender
  • literature
  • marginality
  • outsiders
  • region
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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