The Future of Southern Letters

The Future of Southern Letters

The Future of Southern Letters

The Future of Southern Letters


The New South, though in constant flux, is still haunted by its Gothic ghosts; these essays explore how this paradox contributes to the preeminence of Southern writers.


John Lowe

It is never, as one knows, the subject but only the treatment that distinguishes the artist and poet.

Friedrich Schiller, "On Matthison's Poems" (1794)

We talk real funny down here
We drink too much and we laugh too loud
We're too dumb to make it in no northern town . . .
We got no-necked oilmen from Texas
And good ol' boys from Tennessee
And college men from L.S.U.
Went in dumb. Come out dumb too
Hustlin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes
Gettin' drunk every weekend at the barbecues --
We're Rednecks, we're rednecks
And we don't know our ass from a hole in the ground

Randy Newman, "Rednecks" (1974)

When Randy Newman "Rednecks" came out two decades ago it seemed to speak for a moment when the South had one foot in its moonlit, magnolia-scented, but racist past, and the other in the age of pickup trucks, Sunbelt cities, and country rock. Today, even that moment seems dated. Although the racial agonies the song also speaks of still exist in all areas of the country, the southern "good old boy" has had to make room for professional women, educated African-Americans, and new immigrants like the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Haitians. the rural past has been eclipsed by an ever-expanding urban present, centered on high-finance, high-tech wheeling-dealing, which . . .

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