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American Southern Literature


American Southern Literature Southern Literature 101 Southern literature announces the conjunction of the U.S. South and an expressive art texts ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Southern Literature

American Southern Literature
Southern Literature 101
  • Southern literature announces the conjunction
    of the U.S. South and an expressive arttexts
    identified as belonging to a particular history,
    social organization, and cultural imaginary (5).

  • Much of what is known as southern literature was
    written between 1830s and 1960s. During this
    period in history, the South and North portions
    of the United States were beginning to show signs
    of disunity. Southerners wanted to separate
    themselves from the Northerners, thus they chose
    to write entirely different works.
  • and writers and readers of the South
    correspondingly defined themselves against the
    place (the North) or the ideology (Anti-Slavery,
    Industrial Capitalism) that they saw themselves
    as different from (5).

  • One of the integral aspects of southern culture
    and tradition, is of its colorful literature and
    storytelling. Common themes of southern writers
    include significant familial relationships,
    great diction, and realistic characters. Writers
    in the south also had a sense of background and a
    unique way of life worth writing about.

Influences in Southern Writing
  • Slavery
  • Civil War
  • Segregation
  • Revolution in culture
  • Poverty
  • Military/ War

Elements of Southern Writing Style
  • Dialect Writing
  • Not used often in other writings because it is
    viewed as condescending to the race or ethnicity
    being portrayed.
  • Popular in Southern writing and incorporates
    local speech and patterns i.e. aint, yall etc.
    and misspelling of words to display meaning i.e.
    yuh (you) and lak (like)

Dialect Writing Cont.
  • Examples of books with dialect writing
  • Tom Sawyer
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Huck Finn
  • The Color Purple

Examples of Dialect Writing
  • Excerpts from Their Eyes Were Watching God by
    Zora Neale Hurston
  • "At dat she ain't so ole as some of y'all dat's
  • "She ain't even worth talkin' after," Lulu Moss
    drawled through her nose. "She sits high, but she
    looks low. Dat's what Ah say 'bout dese ole women
    runnin' after young boys."

Common Themes
  • Chivalry
  • This theme reflected southern culture where women
    were treated with respect and were delicate
    flowers to be doted upon.(ideally)
  • Some of the best American romance novels are
    written by Southern authors because of this
    utopian romanticism. i.e. Gone With The Wind

Themes Continued
  • Values and Morals
  • Many values and morals in southern literature are
    a result of a strong Christian influence
    especially of the rigid Baptist church.
  • Family values are also very prominent. Usually
    this theme is presented from a traditional

A Writing Culture
  • the South, perhaps more than any other region,
    we go back to our home in dreams and memories,
    hoping it remains what it was on a lazy, still
    summer's day twenty years ago (1)
  • - Willie Morris

Southern Gothic Writing
  • Southern gothic, a genre of the American South,
    retreats from the dark castles and clanking
    chains of 19th-century European literature to
    embrace the moody romance, mystery, terror, and
  • Examples William Faulkners A Rose For Mary,
    and novels by Eudora Welty.

  • Sub genre of the Gothic Genre
  • Popular in Europe in the 1800s
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Unique to American literature
  • Relies on the supernatural, ironic or unusual
    events to guide the plot.
  • Uses these to explore social issues and to reveal
    the cultural character of the American South

  • Takes classic Gothic archetypes, such as the
    monster or the heroic knight, and turns them into
    American Southerners. Example Spiteful reclusive
    spinster an uneducated drunk, a quiet, wise
  • Most notable is the grotesque
  • A character whose negative qualities allow the
    author to highlight unpleasant aspects of
    southern culture.
  • Something in the town, the house, the farm is
    bizarre and often falling apart.

Defining Feature
  • Cast off-killer characters
  • Broken bodies or soulsused symbolize problems
    created by the established pattern. Also used to
    question established patterns morality and
    ethical justification.
  • The innocent is a common character, who may or
    may not be broken, but often acts as a redeemer
    for others.

Other Features of the Southern Gothic
  • Freakishness
  • Outsider
  • Imprisonment
  • Violence
  • Sense of Place

  • In most Southern gothic stories , there is an
    important character who is set apart from the
    world but in a negative by.
  • This character might have a disability or an odd
    or often negative way of seeing the world.

  • Southern novels are filled with characters who
    are set apart from the established cultural
    pattern, but who end up being heroes because
    their differences allow them to see new ways of
    doing things that ultimately help to bring people
    out of the dark

  • This is often both literal and figurative
  • Many Southern gothic tales include and incident
    where a character is sent to jail or locked up
  • There are also Southern gothic characters that
    live in fates prison.

  • Racial, social, and class difference often create
    underlying tension in Southern gothic novels that
    threatens, and usually does, erupt in violent

Sense of Place
  • You cannot read a Southern gothic novel without
    understanding what a Southern town feels like
  • Old, small towns
  • Houses have front porches with rocking chairs
  • Old downtown with stately but worn-down

Great Southern Novels
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • The Mind of The South by Wilbur Cash

Great Southern Writers
  • There are numerous famous southern authors. Each
    person had different life experiences, thus they
    wrote and included varying themes in their books.
    Themes vary from reader to reader but prominent
    ones in southern works include injustice,
    prejudice, standing up for your beliefs and many

Margaret Mitchell
  • Margaret grew up hearing stories of war and
    wishing she was a boy so she could fight. As a
    young adult, Margaret Mitchells mother passed
    away while she was attending college. She went
    back home to be with her family, but had great
    difficulty getting along with her father due to
    her independent nature.
  • Displayed in Gone With The Wind (Scarlett)

William Faulkner
  • Many say Williams short stories resembled his
    life. They included struggles with rage,
    alcoholism, and adultery. Each of these hardships
    were sadly common in Southern America during the
    1920s through 1950s and even today. His works
    were famous in the South and encouraged many more
    southern novels.

Flannery OConnor
  • Religion was a key factor in her life and thus
    reflected in her writing. She devout Roman
    Catholic but many of the characters in her books
    were Protestant.
  • It was her observation that Protestants
    expressed their faith through dramatic action,
    something she did not see in Catholics (7).

Impact of Southern Writing on The Literary World
  • With the arousal of southern literature came a
    new more authentic style of writing. They went
    against the grain by using small town issues and
    average joe dialect that made their South
    come to life. Many novels also aided in
    awareness on issues like racism and poverty.
    With the unassuming grace of the great south
    these authors have enlightened us on a culture
    filled with romanticism and lamentable family

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