The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

By Bunch-Lyons, Beverly | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists


Bunch-Lyons, Beverly, The Journal of Southern History


The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists. By William Ferris. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. [xiv], 274. $35.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-0754-2.)

William Ferris's The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists transports the reader on a magnificent journey to the small and not-so-small towns and cities that make the South a most interesting place. Through the voices of well-known writers, scholars, musicians, photographers, and painters, the author reveals how the beauty of the region is often pitted against its harsh historical racial realities by those who are most passionate about the South.

This work is clearly a labor of love. Over the course of forty years, Ferris conducted interviews with twenty-six people whom he and many others agree have most influenced the field of southern studies through their writing, songs, and artistic endeavors. These oral history interviews are grouped according to the craft of the interviewee. The writers represented are Eudora Welty, Ernest Gaines, Robert Penn Warren, Alice Walker, Alex Haley, Margaret Walker, and Sterling Brown. The scholars are Cleanth Brooks, John W. Blassingame, Charles Seeger, John Dollard, and C. Vann Woodward. Bobby Rush and Pete Seeger are the musicians. The photographers included are Walker Evans, William Christenberry, and William Eggleston. The last category, artists, is composed of Sam Gilliam, Ed McGowin, Benny Andrews, Carroll Cloar, Rebecca Davenport, William Dunlap, Maud Gatewood, George Wardlaw, and Julien Binford.

Ferris made a deliberate decision to allow the voices of his interviewees to weave a rich and textured narrative of the South. He calls on each person to consider how both they and their work were influenced by the South. The result is an extraordinary book that captures the very essence of life in the South--the landscape, the weather, and perhaps most important, the people, their voices and their stories.

Ferris explains how the work of these scholars, writers, and artists has transformed our thinking about the South as a region and as a subject worthy of academic inquiry. …

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