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The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture
     

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

by Charles Reagan Wilson, Ferris
 

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The American South is a geographical entity, a historical fact, a place in the imagination, and the homeland of an array of Americans who consider themselves southerners. The region is often shrouded in romance and myth, but its realities are as intriguing, as intricate, as its legends.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture is "the first attempt ever" notes

Overview

The American South is a geographical entity, a historical fact, a place in the imagination, and the homeland of an array of Americans who consider themselves southerners. The region is often shrouded in romance and myth, but its realities are as intriguing, as intricate, as its legends.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture is "the first attempt ever" notes U.S. News & World Report, "to describe every aspect of a region's life and thought, the impact of its history and policies, its music and literature, its manners and myths, even the iced tea that washes down its catfish and cornbread."

There are many Souths, many southerners. The region's fundamental uniqueness, in fact, lies in its peculiar combination of cultural traits, a somewhat curious, often elusive blend created by blacks and whites who have lived together for more than 300 years. In telling their stories, the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture ranges from grand historical themes to the whimsical; from the arts and high culture (William Faulkner and Leontyne Price) to folk culture (quilts, banjos, and grits) to popular culture (Gilley's and Gone With the Wind).

The Encyclopedia's definition of the South is a cultural one: the South is found wherever southern culture is found. Although the focus is on the eleven states of the former Confederacy, this volume also encompasses southern outposts in midwestern and middle-Atlantic border states, even the southern pockets of Chicago, Detroit, and Bakersfield.

To foster a deeper understanding of the South's cultural patterns, the editors have organized this reference book around twenty-four thematic sections, including history, religion, folklore, language, art and architecture, recreation, politics, the mythic South, urbanization, literature, music, violence, law, and media. The life experiences of southerners are discussed in sections on black life, ethnic life, and women's life. Throughout, the broad goal is to identify the forces that have supported either the reality or the illusion of the southern way of life -- people, places, ideas, institutions, events, symbols, rituals, and values.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture was developed by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Contributors to the volume include historians, literary critics, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, linguists, theologians, folklorists, architects, ecologists, lawyers, university presidents, newspaper reporters, magazine writers, and novelists.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Organized into 24 thematic sections within four volumes, this comprehensive reference is a scholarly and at times humorous examination of the American South, covering a variety of topics, including the region's geography and cuisine, Elvis, the blues and Gone with the Wind . Illustrated. (May)
Library Journal
Defining the South as existing as a ``state of mind both within and beyond its geographical boundaries,'' and culture as a series of ``historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms,'' this monumental reference work analyzes in both broad strokes and minute detail all things southern. In some 24 sections every aspect of southern culture is explored, dissected, and described, from agriculture to women's life. Each section includes an overview essay, alphabetically arranged thematic articles, and brief topical/biographical sketches. All articles are signed, and the cast of contributors numbers in the hundreds. While the sections on literature and music are among the longest, there are excellent sections on black life, folk life, social class, violence, etc. Two of the most fascinating, ``history and manners'' and the ``mythic south'' discuss all things quintessentially southern--barbeque, chitterlings, fried chicken, mint juleps, and moon pies--or viewed as southern--good old boys and girls, moonlight-and-magnolias, and rednecks. Biographical sketches number 250 living and deceased and include a cross section of representative figures from Daniel Boone to Elvis Presley. A worthy complement to the Encyclopedia of Southern History (LJ 4/1/80), this is a stunning achievement in the field of regional reference works and bargain priced to boot.-- Brian E. Coutts, Western Kentucky Univ. Lib., Bowling Green
Booknews
Editors Wilson (history, Mississippi) and Ferris (anthropology, Detroit and Bakersfield. Literate, scholarly and pithy entries accompanied by well chosen photographs artfully placed. Far too good a book to be printed on acidic paper; our test contradicts the statement on the verso of the title page. The price is $49.95 until January 1990. Mississippi) have devoted 10 years to the realization of a unique concept. Involving many scholars and writers in many fields, this book ranges from grand historical themes to the whimsical; from the arts and high culture to folk and popular culture, organized around 245 thematic sections such as, history, religion, language, art and architecture, etc. Focuses on the eleven states of the former confederacy, but also encompases southern outposts in midwestern and middle-Atlantic border states, even the southern pockets of Chicago, Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
A discriminating guide to Dixology.

Esquire

The Encyclopedia shimmers with information about a region veiled in legend.

Smithsonian

An invaluable piece of work.

Hodding Carter, Washington Post

There are treasures within that make the book a favorite for readers above or below the Mason-Dixon line.

Newsweek

As definitive a survey of the South as could be wished for.

Economist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385415453
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/01/1991
Series:
Developed by the Center for the Studies
Edition description:
1st Anchor Books ed
Pages:
720

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
First-rate. Whether used as a reference source or merely for browsing, it is worth all the hard and devoted work that went into its making.--Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Journal of Southern History

As definitive a survey of the South as could be wished for.--Economist

There are treasures within that make the book a favorite for readers above or below the Mason-Dixon line.--Newsweek

A discriminating guide to Dixology.--Esquire

The Encyclopedia shimmers with information about a region veiled in legend.--Smithsonian

An invaluable piece of work, a resounding reaffirmation that the South does indeed exist in fact as well as myth, despite and because of the profound and often wrenching changes of the past three decades.--Hodding Carter, Washington Post

An exhaustive work. . . . The book's very existence defends the notion--disputed by some scholars--that the South is indeed a unique regional culture, far different from the American norm.--Vogue

Meet the Author

Charles Reagan Wilson, a Texan, is professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 and editor of Religion in the South.

William R. Ferris is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History, Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and Adjunct Professor of Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he has made numerous documentary films and has authored over 100 publications in the fields of folklore, history, literature, and photography. Give My Poor Heart Ease, his book of interviews with Delta blues greats, was published by UNC Press in 2009.

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