For nearly four centuries, the American South has been home to a vital literary tradition. The Literature of the American South reconsiders southern writing from its seventeenth-century origins to its flourishing present. Featuring the works of eighty-seven classic, contemporary, and newly recovered writers of all genres—poetry, short fiction, drama, novels, autobiography, criticism, sermons, memoirs, journals, and letters—this groundbreaking anthology sheds new light on the creative power of the southern imagination. This Norton anthology represents major authors in the tradition—Poe, Douglass, Clemens, Ransom, Toomer, Faulkner, Penn Warren, Hellman, Welty, Williams, Jarrell, McCullers, Dickey, and O'Connor. In addition, the current, thriving state of southern literature is presented in the anthology's largest section, "The Contemporary South: 1940-Present," with works by Dorothy Allison, Lee Smith, Yusef Komunyakaa, Randall Kenan, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., among many others. The Literature of the American South opens up the concept of "southern literature" across lines of color, gender, and class, embracing both urban and agrarian cultures and bringing into the classroom the ongoing dialogues and debates over crucial questions such as southern identity, racial justice, the image of southern womanhood, and the role of art in society. "Vernacular Traditions," Section Four of the anthology, prints a range of texts that makes clear the powerful presence and literary influence of singing, preaching, and storytelling—forms of expression among the most long-lived, adaptable, and vital of the vernacular traditions of the American South. Like otherNorton anthologies, The Literature of the American South provides lively, informative period introductions, author headnotes, annotations that are explanatory not interpretive, and selected bibliographies.
Author Biography: William L. Andrews, General Editor (Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt and To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865. He is an editor of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, a co-editor of The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, and the General Editor of the Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography. Minrose C. Gwin (Ph.D. University of Tennessee) is professor of English at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (Beyond) Sexual Difference and Black and White Women of the Old South: The Peculiar Sisterhood in American Literature. Trudier Harris (Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of five books, most recently The Power of the Porch: The Storyteller's Craft in Zora Neale Hurston, Gloria Naylor, and Randall Kenan, and a co-editor of The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States and The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Fred Hobson (Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is Lineberger Professor in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Mencken: A Life and The Southern Writer in the Postmodern World, and a co-editor of Southern Literary Journal.
I particularly like the efforts made by the editors to reflect the diversity of the American South. (Barbara Ladd, Emory University)
The anthology gives us the best of traditional and postmodern possibilities. (Jerry W. Ward Jr., Tougaloo College)
With its scope and variety, it would be very easy to structure a course with this anthology alone. (Will Brantley, Middle Tennessee State University)
Writing from his experience as a professor of American and English literature at the University of Kentucky, Bryant has compiled here a thorough guidehe calls it a "primer"to the literary output of 20th-century Southerners. From this premise, Bryant is able to include writers like Ralph Ellison, James Agee and William Styron who migrated north but whose works nonetheless both inform and are informed by the regional experience of the South. In more or less chronological order, Bryant leads the reader from the early plantation fiction with its idealized notions of the Old South, through the various movements centered around Vanderbilt Universitythe Fugitives, the Agrarians and the New Criticismall of which contributed greatly to the mid-century "Southern Renaissance," and beyond to a broad discussion of postmodern and contemporary writers. Special attention is given to major writers such as Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Shelby Foote and Robert Penn Warren, whom Bryant designates as "the supreme summary figure of the century," but the book also incorporates and draws connections between lesser-known writers or those whose one-time significance has since faded. Well organized with subchapters devoted to African American writers, women writers, playwrights, poets and critics, the book includes a good deal of background and biographical information. What the book offers in breadth of scope, however, it lacks in details such as quotations from the literature discussed or Bryant's own insights. Nonetheless, for the reader interested in a bird's-eye view of the major figures and trends in Southern literature, this work will be a welcome resource. (Nov.) FYI: Also due in October are Southern Writers with photos by David G. Spielman, text by William W. Starr (Univ. of S. Carolina $24.95 160p ISBN 1-57003-224-6; Oct.) and The Literature of the American South: Vol. II (Norton, $29.95 1060p ISBN 0-393-31671-8)