“New Approaches to Gone with the Wind,” edited by James A. Crank

James A. Crank

Reviewed by Angela Eib Kraus

New Approaches to Gone with the Wind is an intriguing compilation of nine essays by scholars of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gone with the Wind (GWTW). It examines not only GWTG, the book and the film, but also the subsequent works it has inspired in others, be they admirers, detractors, or others who acknowledge GWTW‘s historical and cultural impact.  This collection reimagines the “Southern imaginary.”

If you have not spent much time researching this iconic work, New Approaches to Gone with the Wind may motivate you to do so.  Subjects included here include Alice Randall’s 2001 The Wind Done Gone, a slave’s version of Mitchell’s novel; the 1915 film Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith, a forerunner to GWTW; Elizabeth Pringles’s 1914 A Woman Rice Planter, featuring another strong Southern female who subverts the status quo; Frank Yerby’s The Foxes of Harrow, written in 1946, an African American writer of the Southern plantation romance novel who is at odds with his black peers; Leopard Spots by Thomas Dixon, published in 1902, the first of a trilogy featuring the KKK as heroes; and Jezebel, the 1938 film created for Bette Davis, a compensation for not being offered the role of Scarlet in GWTW.

The essays here range widely, evaluating, for instance, the Irish connection and reaction to the film, the challenge the book and film presented for global marketing, the embodying of “blackness” in certain white characters, the niche market created by the movie (in industries as various as tea and retirement homes), the rape culture explicit or implicit in GWTW, and the gay community’s relationship to GWTW.

Just Like One of the Darkies: The Birth of Racial Difference in Gone With the Wind,” by Jessica Sims, perhaps the youngest writer of the nine, considers the role of childbirth, midwifery, and women’s reproductive health in general, as portrayed in GWTW through both the white female characters of Scarlet and Melanie and the black female characters of Prissy and Dilcey.  Sims delves into the historical relationship between midwifery and medical male physicians and explores how the Reconstruction Period shaped that dynamic.

The biggest surprise, in my view, came in the last essay, “Artistically Re-creating and Reimagining Mammy, Rhett, and Scarlett,” by Riche Richardson, a quilter who shares her cloth renditions of three characters in GWTW: Scarlet, Rhett, and Mammy.

As a work of scholarship, New Approaches to Gone with the Wind has as its intended audience primarily scholars, not enthusiasts or general readers. But even non-scholars will learn from this book, which can be enjoyed by anyone who seeks to understand the Civil War Era, the cultural impact of Mitchell’s novel, or David Selznick’s memorable big-screen film.

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