Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Regional Insularity and Aesthetic Isolationism: Ellen Glasgow’s The Builders and the First World War


Mark A. Graves

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


As a Virginian with a hereditary pride in the land that produced a Washington and a Jefferson, Ellen Glasgow left behind a rich, unique commentary on the major issues of her era and her region, not the least of which involved the evolution of southern letters from the “evasive idealism,” as she called it, of the plantation school of literature she so ardently abhorred. Born as she said with a “nonconformist mind” (“What I Believe” 219), Glasgow’s active involvement in women’s issues and her protection of animals have been well documented in critical collections such as Julius Raper’s Ellen Glasgow’s Reasonable Doubts and elsewhere, yet she was strangely passive in her response to the onset of World War I and American involvement later on. Although war in general created the social injustices and psychological hardships Glasgow deplored— and the technological advancements employed in World War I would magnify the devastation beyond prior human comprehension— except for granting an interview or two during the war itself, she remained relatively silent in both word and action as one of the greatest world-shaping events of her lifetime raged.