Once, history and "the South" dwelt in close proximity.
Representations of the South in writing and on film assumed
everybody knew what had happened in place and time to create the
South. Today, our vision of the South varies, and there is less
"there there" than ever before.
In The South That Wasn't There, Michael Kreyling explores a
series of literary situations in which memory and history seem to
work in odd and problematic ways. Looking at Toni Morrison's
masterpiece Beloved, he tests the viability of applying Holocaust
and trauma studies to the poetics and politics of remembering
slavery. He then turns to Robert Penn Warren's grapplings with his
personal memory of racism, which culminated in his attempt to
confront the evil directly in his book Who Speaks for the Negro? In
a chapter on the court contest between Margaret Mitchell's estate
and Alice Randall over Randall's parody The Wind Done Gone,
Kreyling treats neglected issues such as the status of literary
sequels and parody in an age of advanced commodification of the
Kreyling's searching inquiry into the intersection of the
southern warrior narrative and the shocks dealt America by the
Vietnam War uncovers what appears to be the deliberate yet
unconscious use of southern Civil War memory in a time of national
identity crisis. He follows that up with a comparison of Faulkner's
appropriation of Caribbean memory in Absalom, Absalom and Madison
Smartt Bell's in his trilogy on Toussaint Louverture and the
Finally, Kreyling examines some new manifestations of southern
memory, including science fiction as embodied in Octavia Butler's
novel Kindred, "mockumentary" in Kevin Willmott's film C.S.A., and
postmodern cinema parody in Lars Von Trier's Manderlay.
Lively and frequently confrontational, The South That Wasn't
There offers a thought-provoking reexamination of our literary
conceptions about the South.
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