Margaret Mitchell

Whose speech? Who speaks?

Vanessa Place’s “Miss Scarlett”

Protesters picket the movie Gone with the Wind
Protesters picket the movie Gone with the Wind (1940s), Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Over on the Poetry Foundation, The Harriet Blog has a write up of my recent post on Vanessa Place’s “White Out” of Gone with the Wind. The Harriet Blog also notes Place’s current retyping of the novel on Twitter, and Brian Reed’s discussion of Place’s “Miss Scarlett” (also an iteration of Gone with the Wind). In a recent talk (which you can watch here), I discussed the relationship between Place’s “White Out” and “Miss Scarlett.” I read “Miss Scarlett” somewhat differently from Reed, as I outline below.

In “Miss Scarlett,” Place appropriates Gone with the Wind in a more overtly discomforting way than in her “White Out”:

Dey’s fightin’ at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett!

Dey say our gempmums is gittin’ beat.

Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter

Maw an’ Poke? Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen

ter us effen de Yankees gits hyah? Oh,

Gawd—Ah ain’ nebber seed him, Miss Scarlett.

No’m, he ain’ at de horsepittle.

Let’s note (with Brian Reed) that a poem like “Miss Scarlett” is written for our digital world of searchable copies. Because of these digital copies, readers can type a phrase into Google and quickly locate the source text: in this case, all the words spoken the maid Prissy in a section of Gone with the Wind.

On not repeating Gone with the Wind

Iteration and Copyright

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Iterative poetics can serve as a mode of questioning political authority while remaining conscious of the danger that one might be merely repeating what one seeks to overthrow. But some contemporary modes of iteration seem more concerned with contesting other forms of authority. These forms of authority include, as we have seen with Prigov’s 49th Alphabet, the cultural authority of classic writers, as well as the economic authority of copyright and intellectual property. These two forms of authority are sometimes, as in the examples I turn to today, intimately linked.

Take, for example, appropriation artist Richard Prince’s recent work The Catcher in the Rye, in which Prince seemingly demands to be sued by publishing a copyrighted classic that has sold millions under his own name. Iterative strategies have also been used to challenge the copyright of another fiercely protected US classic: Gone with the Wind. Iteration here also becomes a way to respond to a more pernicious form of cultural copying: stereotyping.

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