Faulkner, Sut, and Other Southerners: Essays in Literary History

Faulkner, Sut, and Other Southerners: Essays in Literary History

Faulkner, Sut, and Other Southerners: Essays in Literary History

Faulkner, Sut, and Other Southerners: Essays in Literary History

Excerpt

One could argue that literature in the American South began as early as 1608 when the explorer and adventurer Captain John Smith published his promotional pamphlet A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of noate as hath hath in Virginia, the first of a series of accounts, each of which became more embellished, to include finally the story of his rescue by Pocahontas. Or, to move ahead a hundred years, perhaps Southern letters began with the secret diaries, character sketches, poems, and satiric prose of the true Renaissance gentleman in residence at Westover, William Byrd II. But because America as an independent nation did not exist until 1776 and neither Smith nor Byrd considered himself other than a British citizen, the most one can say is that they established the traditions of exaggeration, irony, wit, stylistic versatility, and experimentation with form that would characterize Southern literature.

Despite general impressions to the contrary, the intellectual life of the colonists in what would become the Southern states was rich and varied. In the political and cultural center of Williamsburg citizens attended the theater, gave concerts for each other, built welldesigned houses with beautifully patterned gardens, collected selective but impressive libraries, wrote articulate and well-argued letters to friends at home and abroad, read classical authors in the original Greek and Latin, and engaged in political and religious debate. Colonial authors expressed themselves in poetry and prose, satire and invective, essays and pamphlets. Noteworthy published works of the period include the translation into heroic couplets of Ovid's Metamorphoses (1626) by George Sandys, Jamestown treasurer and director of industry and agriculture; a humorous prose account of colonial life interspersed with lively poetry, A Character of the Province of Maryland (1666), by indentured servant George Alsop; the engag-

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