Honor and Violence in the Old South / Edition 1

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Hailed as a classic by reviewers and historians, Bertram Wyatt-Brown's Southern Honor now appears in abridged form under the title Honor and Violence in the Old South. Winner of a Phi Alpha Theta Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History, this is the first major reinterpretation of Southern life and custom since W.J. Cash's The Mind of the South. It explores the meaning and expression of the ancient code of honor as whites--both slaveholders and non-slaveholders--applied it to their lives.

Wyatt-Brown argues persuasively that Southern ethical habits and traditions are the basis of regional distinctiveness and helped to perpetuate and justify the South's most cherised peculiarity: the institution of slavery. Using both literature and anthropology in innovative ways, Wyatt-Brown shows how honor affected family loyalty and community defensiveness. He also explains why, though it preceded and outlasted the demise of slavery, honor thrived on race oppression and was manifested in such violent acts as rape, lynching, and slave discipline.

The work begins with a study of Hawthorne's famous story of a tar-and-feathering, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," and ends with an authentic lynching, an absorbing and chilling example of a public shaming ritual. Between these studies of fictional and historical violence, Wyatt-Brown deals with such wide-ranging topics as childbearing, marital patterns, gentility, legal traditions, duelling, hospitality, slave discipline, lynch-law, and insurrectionary panic--all of which were matters that gave white Southerners a special sense of themselves.

Wyatt-Brown ranges widely to discover the role of honor in the psyche of white Southerners.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An abridgement of his Southern Honor and an articulate treatment of white culture in the Old South. Students find it interesting and provocative."--Daniel Kilbride, Hollins College

From the reviews of Southern Honor: "A work of enormous imagination and enterprise, one that has the audacity to see a vast realm of human experience through a single lens and the authority to make that view seem not merely plausible but incontrovertible...Wyatt-Brown has altered and deepened our understanding of the Southern past--and thus, inevitably, of the American past as well."--Washington Post Book World.

"A good short study. Will consider as recommended reading."--Harvey H. Jackson, Jacksonville State Univ.

"In this abridgement of his prize-winning Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, Wyatt-Brown masterfully dissects the complex social code that bound, and gave meaning to, the lives of white Southerners, rich as well as poor."--Wilson Quarterly

"One of the very best books about the South...A model of what scholarly writing can be: a rather bold thesis rigorously defended with logic and with innumerable supporting citations, each kept brief and deftly fitted into the overall design."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"An enormous academic accomplishment."--Harper's

"Southern Honor, a wide-ranging, innovative, and highly readable analysis of white social relations in the Old South, will make it impossible to ignore honor as a major ideology in southern history....It is a major contribution to our understanding of the ways southern women and men made their ethical choices in times and circumstances not always of their own choosing."--Journal of American History

"An original stimulus to interpretation and a treasury of important and fascinating information."--Journal of Southern History

"A most thorough-going examination of the code of honor of white Southern culture in pre-Civil War times."--Antioch Review

"An important, original book. Along with W.J. Cash's classic study 'The Mind of the South,' this is one of the few serious attempts to recreate the lost world of the South."--The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195042429
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1986
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.38 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Table of Contents

Part 1 Foundations
1 Honor in Literary Perspective 3
2 The Nature of Primal Honor 25
3 Gentility 40
4 Family 63
5 Sexual Honor, Expectation, and Shame 85
Part 2 Public Ethics
6 Hospitality, Gambling, and Personal Combat 121
7 Policing Slave Society: Insurrectionary Scares 154
8 Tar and Feathers: Community Disorder 187
9 Anatomy of a Wife-Killing 214
Suggested Readings 249
Index 263
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