Until recently, the American South has often been treated in
isolation by historians and literary critics. In these essays five
scholars of southern history and literature evaluate elements of
contemporary--and future--southern experience, including place,
community, culture, class, gender, and racial roles.
Fred Hobson observes in his introductory essay that the U.S.
South must be seen in relation to a larger world--the Caribbean and
Central and South America, as well as European countries with a
similar grounding in hardship and defeat. Moreover, the South can
no longer be viewed in black-and-white terms--especially if the
subject is race. Joel Williamson's essay challenges fellow
historians to broaden their purview by getting acquainted with
"Gone with the Wind," Elvis Presley, and other phenomena of
southern culture(s). Linda Wagner-Martin discusses the innovative
ways in which contemporary southern writers such as Charles Frazier
take on traditional southern concerns and shows us how "place
becomes space" for Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver, Cormac
McCarthy, and other southern-born writers whose works are often set
outside the geographical South.
Thadious Davis looks at the "youngsters" of southern poetry,
fiction, and drama, revealing how their work reflects a racially
and ethnically mixed, digitized, and otherwise reconfigured South.
In the writings of Shay Youngblood, Randall Kenan, Donna Tartt,
Mona Lisa Salloy, and others, one can see the collapsing of
distinctions between the literary and the popular, and a greater
comfort with social fluidity and mobility. The concluding essay by
Edward Ayers, set in 2076, offers a witty glimpse of
things-perhaps-to-come. Through a series of short dispatches from a
sixteen-year-old narrator of
Scottish-Ghanian-Honduran-Korean-Cherokee descent, Ayers transports
us to the Consolidated South that counts Incarceration Incorporated
among its largest employers.
As these writings signal new depths and directions in southern
historical and literary studies, they compose a witty and erudite
album of snapshots, revealing a region on the verge of big
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