Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South - Cover
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Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South

Southern Literary Studies

384 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 1 chart

ebook available

Literature - American | Religious Studies | Cultural Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807150900 / July 2013

Winner of the SAMLA Studies Award

In this sweeping study, Bryan Giemza retrieves a missing chapter of Irish Catholic heritage by canvassing the literature of American Irish writers from the U.S. South.

Beginning with the first Irish American novel, published in Winchester, Virginia, in 1817, Giemza investigates nineteenth-century writers contending with the turbulence of their time—writers influenced by both American and Irish revolutions, dramatists and propagandists of the Civil War, and the Lost Cause. Some familiar names arise in an Irish context, including Joel Chandler Harris and Kate (O’Flaherty) Chopin. Giemza then turns to the works of twentieth-century writers, such as Margaret Mitchell, John Kennedy Toole, and Pat Conroy. For each author, Giemza traces the impact of Catholicism on their ethnic identity and their work. 
Giemza draws on many never-before-seen documents, including the correspondence of Cormac McCarthy, interviews with members of the Irish community in Flannery O’Connor’s native Savannah, Georgia, and Giemza’s own correspondence with writers such as Valerie Sayers and Anne Rice. This lively history prompts a new understanding of how the Catholic Irish in the South helped invent a regional myth, an enduring literature, and a national image.

Bryan Giemza is director of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Libraries. He is the author of Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South.

Praise for Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South

“Giemza's study, written in graceful and often playful prose, is well informed, insightful, and heartily recommended for all academic libraries.”—Catholic Library World

“The treatments of Harris and McCarthy are illuminating, and they join Giemza’s needful extraction of Margaret Mitchell’s critique of southern romanticism from the nettles of her reception as a champion thereof . . . as highlights of this multilayered literary biography of the South’s Irish Catholic literati.”—American Catholic Studies

"His study is a necessary step toward revealing the Irish literary presence in the American South... This blending of mythos and reality — baked in idiosyncratic terms but sold to a collective region — is both Irish and Southern. Giemza’s study truly considers, for the first time, how Catholic writing contributed to this invention."—Nick Ripatrazone, The Marginalia Review

“[A] much-needed study of Irish Catholic writers in the South. . . . By stepping away from conversations about ethnic, regional, and cultural purity, Giemza offers insights about the Catholic Irish in this region that seem long overdue.”—Journal of Southern History

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