The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 16

By Harvey H. Jackson III | Go to book overview

LEISURE, SPORTS, AND
ALL SORTS OF RECREATION

C. Vann Woodward begins his American Counterpoint with a lengthy treatment of southern leisure. He points out that, like so many other myths about the South, this one tends to be “Janus-faced,” to present contrary aspects that change depending on the observer’s point of view. For some, southern leisure has been a gracious thing, involving careful attention to nonpecuniary values and activities in a world mad with materialistic frenzy. Others, looking at the reverse side, see the unattractive countenance, the Lazy South, the “Sahara of the Bozart,” with all its blemishes—“idleness, indolence, slothfulness, languor, lethargy, and dissipation.”

Leisure/Laziness Myth. These two contrary aspects notwithstanding, the leisure/laziness myth has consistently involved two distinct cultural subjects— work and nonwork—and has represented the typical southerner as less interested in the former than most Americans and more interested in the latter. The myth’s Janus-faced quality becomes clear only when values have been assigned to work and to leisure. Some northern observers and proponents of the “new Industrial South” have focused on the South’s distaste for work, viewing it as a destructive anachronism that needed to be reformed, and dismissed the various claims about the virtues of free time. But apologists for the South have tended to emphasize the value of leisure as a time for human culture, spiritual reflection, contemplation, friends, family, nature—those things that make life worth the effort—and at the same time to criticize the American preoccupation with busy work, mindless growth, and the resultant spiritual and cultural exhaustion.

This myth, then, has generated two kinds of statements, those about facts and those about values. As such, it may be analyzed on two levels. On the one hand, one may attempt to determine the extent to which the myth is true—the extent to which southern attitudes and behavior correspond to the stereotype. The social scientist, for example, may test southern mass attitudes and behavior and speculate about their causes. On the other hand, the myth may be accepted on its own terms, as an expression of values and as a part of the larger cultural dialogue or “counterpoint” that has existed between the South and the rest of

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The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture - Vol. 16
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • General Introduction xiii
  • Introduction xix
  • Leisure, Sports, and All Sorts of Recreation 1
  • Index of Contributors 363
  • Index 365
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