Pennsylvania as Appalachia: Creative Responses to an Ambiguous Identity (Creative)


Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing / American/Diaspora

Jerry Wemple (Bloomsburg University)

In his recent book Appalachia North, Matthew Ferrence argues that a large segment of Pennsylvania is part of Appalachia and should be identified as such. Indeed, the Appalachian Regional Commission designates 52 of the commonwealth’s 67 counties as Appalachia, for the most part only excluding the southeast portion of the state: Philadelphia and its suburbs, and the flat farmland of “Pennsylvania Dutch” country. Of the 13 states that have a portion of their landmass within ARC’s Appalachia, Pennsylvania has the largest acreage according to a 2011 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. But do Pennsylvanian see themselves as part of Appalachia, a place that in popular culture is often identified with people dwelling in the hills of the rural south, and often of Scots-Irish descent? Do the descendants of Slavic anthracite miners in northeastern Pennsylvania share a culture with those of coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky? This panel asks poets and prose writers to share work that examines what and how Pennsylvania contributes to Appalachian culture.

The Appalachian Regional Commission designates 52 of the state’s 67 counties as part of Appalachia. Panelists will read from work set in this region and discuss how the work addresses the idea of Appalachia with an eye toward moving beyond stereotypes and examining the area’s hidden peoples and stories.