Race and Intimacy

Albert Murray's South to a Very Old Place

in Critical Survey

In her essay, ‘Place in Fiction’, Eudora Welty describes place as identity.1 We put a poetic claim on, give a name to, a part of landscape that has put a claim on us. Place, therefore, is space to which meaning has been ascribed2 – as Scott Romine expresses it ‘a network of imperatives, codes, norms, limitations, duties, obligations and relationships’.3 As we name, therefore, we create, as Welty describes it, a crossroads, ‘a proving ground’.4 That place is the South, and the South is the ground of the novel. Yet, so often, as Barbara Ladd reminds us, place can become ‘something phantasmagoric … something longed lost and longed for … a locus of desire’ – a dream rather than a reality. Can place, she asks, function, become viable, dynamic and vital?