Many of America’s foremost, and most beloved, authors are also southern and female: Mary Chesnut, Kate Chopin, Ellen Glasgow, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, Anne Tyler, Alice Walker, and Lee Smith, to name several. Designating a writer as “southern” if her work reflects the region’s grip on her life, Mary Louise Weaks and Carolyn Perry have produced an invaluable guide to the richly diverse and enduring tradition of southern women’s literature. Their comprehensive history — the first of its kind in a relatively young field — extends from the pioneer woman to the career woman, embracing black and white, poor and privileged, urban and Appalachian perspectives and experiences.
The History of Southern Women’s Literature allows readers both to explore individual authors and to follow the developing arc of various genres across time. Conduct books and slave narratives; Civil War diaries and letters; the antebellum, postbellum, and modern novel; autobiography and memoirs; poetry; magazine and newspaper writing — these and more receive close attention. Over seventy contributors are represented here, and their essays discuss a wealth of women’s issues from four centuries: race, urbanization, and feminism; the myth of southern womanhood; preset images and assigned social roles — from the belle to the mammy — and real life behind the facade of meeting others’ expectations; poverty and the labor movement; responses to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the influence of Gone with the Wind.
The History of Southern Women’s Literature tells, ultimately, the story of the search for freedom within an “insidious tradition,” to quote Ellen Glasgow. This teeming volume validates the deep contributions and pleasures of an impressive body of writing and marks a major achievement in women’s and literary studies
Mary Weaks-Baxter is Hazel Koch Professor of English at Rockford College in Illinois. She is coeditor of The History of Southern Women's Literature and Southern Women's Writing: Colonial to Contemporary.
Praise for The History of Southern Women's Literature
“[A] very valuable gathering of critical essays . . . I can hardly overstate its varied usefulness to readers, students, critics and scholars. . . . We ought to be grateful to the editors and contributors for putting together this helpful anthology.”—Virginia Quarterly Review
“Editors Perry (English, Westminster Coll.) and Weaks (English, Rockford Coll.) wanted this survey to be as ‘all inclusive as possible to show the full range of writing by women of the South,’ and they have succeeded admirably.”—Library Journal
“Much more than a valuable compendium of information on southern women writers from Eliza Lucas Pinckney (writing in the eighteenth century) to Kaye Gibbons, The History of Southern Women's Literature offers its readers new ways to think about southern literary history. . . . It is not only going to contribute to the ongoing reassessments and reconceptualizations of southern women's writing, but that its new centers of interest and new categories for analysis will go far toward helping scholars rethink many of the categories and conventions of southern literary studies in general.”—Southern Literary Journal
“What emerges in reading this volume is a clear picture of life in the South as the region, its inhabitants, their stories, and even the very definitions of Southern and The South have undergone tremendous change.”—Arkansas Review
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