The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature

The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature

The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature

The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature

Excerpt

Among southern states, only Mississippi, by virtue of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and Richard Wright, has produced a richer literature than Georgia. With such authors as Conrad Aiken, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Joel Chandler Harris, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Walker (not to mention Margaret Mitchell), Georgia holds a position of considerable literary prominence.

Georgia writing developed in response to the same events and forces that shaped the national literature: the disappearance of the frontier, the expansion of industry, the growth of cities, the trauma of war and depression, and the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Yet factors unique to the state also left their marks. The relatively late founding of the Georgia colony in 1733 and the persistence of the frontier well into the nineteenth century significantly influenced the state’s literature — especially its penchant for humor and violence — and its emphasis on regional themes and settings. In the twentieth century the explosive growth of Atlanta and its impact on surrounding areas has also played a powerful role.

The first writing in Georgia was not really intended to be literature. It came in the form of letters, diaries, journals, political speeches, and newspaper articles. These provide a valuable record of the state’s early history and of the lives of its residents. General James Oglethorpe’s journal entries, for instance, report on the early days of the colony’s settlement, while Hugh McCall’s History of Georgia (1811–16) chronicles the colony’s development through the end of the eighteenth century.

But the first important literature did not appear until early in the nineteenth century, when the prominence of the frontier in Georgia, and the southeastern United States in general, gave rise to the nation’s first native literature. Sometimes called frontier . . .

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