The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 9

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 9

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 9

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 9


Offering a comprehensive view of the South's literary landscape, past and present, this volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture celebrates the region's ever-flourishing literary culture and recognizes the ongoing evolution of the southern literary canon. As new writers draw upon and reshape previous traditions, southern literature has broadened and deepened its connections not just to the American literary mainstream but also to world literatures--a development thoughtfully explored in the essays here.

Greatly expanding the content of the literature section in the original Encyclopedia, this volume includes 31 thematic essays addressing major genres of literature; theoretical categories, such as regionalism, the southern gothic, and agrarianism; and themes in southern writing, such as food, religion, and sexuality. Most striking is the fivefold increase in the number of biographical entries, which introduce southern novelists, playwrights, poets, and critics. Special attention is given to contemporary writers and other individuals who have not been widely covered in previous scholarship.


Any assessment of the creative contributions of the American South must take its literature into account. Literary historians and critics have written much about the flowering of literary talent in the Southern Literary Renaissance of the early to mid-20th century, and the national culture still recognizes the writings of contemporary southerners. Like Civil War generals and civil rights leaders, the generations of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, Thomas Wolfe, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, and other 20th-century figures are icons of the South. Literary critics have been key commentators on southern cultural configurations, helping, according to recent scholarship, to “invent” the field of southern literature.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture provided a thorough overview of literary movements, key topics in the literary study of the South, and a rather modest biographical list of writers generally acknowledged to have been among the “greatest” in their literary achievements. Since the publication of the Encyclopedia in 1989, the study of southern literature has undergone seismic shocks representing as substantial a change in outlook as in any field of southern cultural study. Postmodernism was enormously influential in unpacking the criteria agendas that helped formulate the canon of the Southern Renaissance, and postsouthern scholarship questions many of the assumptions for a continuing tradition. Postcolonial and globalization scholars see connections of southern writers with other areas of the world as being more significant than traditional North-South connections within the nation.

The Literature volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture responds to these changes with a revised overview essay and a series of new thematic articles that summarize theoretical outlooks on southern literary study, open up thematic and genre issues not considered in the earlier volume, and place southern literature in wider comparative contexts than before. the list of biographical entries has been enormously expanded to reflect the range of writing that now is considered within southern contexts. Critics of the Southern Literary Renaissance at one point privileged the work of novelists and poets. The New Encyclopedia has a generous helping of entries in these fields but broadens the scope to include memoirists, mystery writers, humorists, biographers, essayists, dramatists, nature writers, critics, short-story masters, a few seminal historians, and a sociologist. Editors have acknowledged through biographies . . .

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