Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis

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Religion has permeated nearly every aspect of modern southern culture, with results that range from portraits of Jesus on black velvet to the soul-stirring orations of Martin Luther King Jr. In Judgment and Grace in Dixie, Charles Reagan Wilson makes a lively appraisal of religion's influence on such expressions of regional life as literature, music, and folk art, as well as on such public spectacles as football games and beauty pageants.

Wilson's focus is on popular religion—evangelical Protestantism as embraced at the grassroots level, where distinctions between the sacred and secular are blurred and belief in the supernatural remains strong. As he traces the development and meaning of popular religion and pop culture, Wilson ranges widely across a spiritual landscape rich in iconic accumulations of people, places, events, and artifacts—church fans and Elvis Presley memorabilia, the painting of Howard Finster and the songs of Hank Williams, the Scopes trial and the death of Bear Bryant.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wilson writes in a clear and entertaining style with insight and sympathy. He understands and explains the pervasive religious mindset of the South."—Library Journal

"A brilliant excavation of religious strains in the southern psyche.”—Commonwealt

"A fascinating examination of the South's pervasive evangelical Protestantism. Anyone interested in the modern South will enjoy this engaging, well-written book."—John Shelton Reed, author of Southern Folk, Plain and Fancy: Native White Social Types

“Anyone who wants to know. more about contemporary southern religious and cultural life should start with this book. Wilson possesses an outstanding ability to look clearly at the transformations of the South and to interpret their meaning by focusing on popular events and icons."—Edward L. Queen II, Christian Century

"Eclectic and suggestive . . . A book that intersects provocatively with the work of scholars such as Colleen McDannell, Ted Ownby, and Lawrence Levine on material culture, religion, and consumerism."—Church History

“Wilson is an inspired eclectic and a strategic reader in scholarship produced in disciplines other than history. . . . This collection entertains!"—Southern Quarterly

"Highly readable and often thought-provoking, these essays make a notable contribution to our understanding of religion's influence in the South."—Atlanta History

"For those who try to understand the matter of religion in the South, the topic is a bewildering one. . . . With a prose style that is clear and supple and an intelligence that is probing and authoritative, Charles Reagan Wilson demystifies the subject and carries us into the very heart of the dilemma."—South Atlantic Review

Library Journal
Wilson (editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, LJ 7/89) examines popular religious icons, symbols, and rituals of Southern culture in this loosely linked collection of essays. Part 1 focuses on Protestant Evangelism, the Lost Cause, and Southern civil religion. Part 2 looks at creative religious expressions in country music, popular visual arts, and literature. Part 3 deals with such aspects of popular culture as the iconography of Elvis, the significance of beauty queens, and sacred Southern space. The author feels that attention to these popular manifestations promotes a better understanding of the uniqueness of this region and its people. Wilson writes in a clear and entertaining style with insight and sympathy. He understands and explains the pervasive religious mindset of the South. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.
Collects 12 essays drawn from diverse sources and published between 1987 and 1995 in scholarly journals, popular periodicals, and other sources. The essays explore the cultural implications of evangelical Protestantism's long hegemony over southern life, from the iconography of Elvis to Sunday at the First Baptist Church. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820329659
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Reagan Wilson is Kelly Gene Cook, Sr., Chair in History and Professor of Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920, (both Georgia) and general editor of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.

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Table of Contents

1 The Southern Religious Culture: Distinctiveness and Social Change 3
2 "God's Project": The Southern Civil Religion, 1920-1980 18
3 The Death of Bear Bryant: Myth and Ritual in the Modern South 37
4 William Faulkner and the Southern Religious Culture 55
5 Southern Religion and Visionary Art 73
Church Fans 84
6 Digging Up Bones: Death in Country Music 94
7 The South's Torturous Search for the Good Books 110
8 The Iconography of Elvis 129
9 Sunday at the First Baptist Church 139
10 The Cult of Beauty 144
11 Unifying the Symbols of Southern Culture 159
12 Sacred Southern Space 164
Afterword: Popular Religion and the Southern Cultural Passage 175
Notes 179
Index 197
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