Edward E. Baptist, Cornell University
"Few authors, working on the intellectual history of the South in recent years, can equal Johanna Shields for her command of the evidence, felicity of style, and cogency of analysis. Her new book will be very influential on how we understand the complex situation of Southern authors, forced to reconcile the twin imperatives of slavery and freedom."
Michael O’Brien, University of Cambridge
"Filled with rich research and colorful stories, Johanna Shields’s study of eight white writers in 19th-century Alabama will inform and please anyone interested in the United States during the Civil War era. Taking a cue from one of her writers, Shields embarks on an intellectual journey to the ‘weird utopia’ of a rising South which uneasily joined slavery to a vision of individual self-determination. Each of the authors is a portal on a society caught between the twin forces of middle-class striving and racial hierarchy. Shields deftly explores her authors’ key stories and characters, taking us into a fascinating terrain of authorship, friendship, and family. With a nuanced touch for both the power and the foibles that marked the creation of a popular literature, this study opens up new visions of a vibrant South and its place in our understanding of the American past."
Steven Stowe, Indiana University
"This is far and away the best thing ever written on antebellum Alabama’s authors. But much more than that, it is a profound and moving meditation on the ways that freedom and slavery both reinforced and undermined each other in the minds of antebellum Southern intellectuals. It is a major achievement."
J. Mills Thornton, University of Michigan
"… an exemplary work of traditional intellectual history …"
Arthur Riss, The Journal of American History
"… a significant entry into the burgeoning literature of the once-neglected Southern middle class."
Christopher A. Graham, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Johanna Nicol Shields engagingly portrays the lives of individual Alabama authors who published in national and regional markets, and through these writers and their works, she illuminates middle-class southern values."
Jennifer R. Green, Journal of Southern History
"… a compelling and complicated work, in which the thesis combats a historiography that has often ignored the South as an intellectual centre … Shields presents a composed, complex and intriguing narrative."
Danielle Demiantschuk, Southern Historian