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Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South

Southern Literary Studies

240 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Southern History | Literature - American

  Hardcover / 9780807150344 / June 2013

In this innovative collection, Jason Phillips and ten other historians and literary scholars explore the enduring dynamic between history, literature, and power in the American South. Blending analysis with storytelling, and professional insights with personal experiences, they “deconstruct Dixie,” insisting that writing the South’s history means harnessing, not criticizing, the inherent power of narrative.

Contributors examine white southern documents from multiple, fresh perspectives and consider ways in which storytelling helped shape identity and mold scholarship over time. Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that William Percy’s life and work blurred fact and fiction to reconcile the anti-intellectual conventions of a rural, hierarchical South with his cosmopolitan mindset. Orville Vernon Burton and Ian Binnington investigate nationalism, local allegiances, and the imagined community of the Confederacy. Farrell O’Gorman, Jewel L. Spangler, David A. Davis, Robert Jackson, Anne Marshall, K. Stephen Prince, and Jim Downs explore diverse topics such as southern Gothic fiction and the centrality of religion, white trash autobiographies, the “professional southerner” in literature and criticism, and the “one-drop rule” of racial taxonomy in America. 
These writers look beyond ideology and race, showcasing new ways of interpreting texts and encouraging scholars to move beyond theory to engage the historical context of southern stories and storytelling.

Jason Phillips, an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University, is the author of Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility.

Praise for Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South

“[An] ambitious volume of ten scholarly articles that constantly walk and blur the line between literature and history....Reading this inspiring compilation of thoughts opens up a wide field of questions about doing (southern) history that are worth to pursue.”—Sebastian Jobs, H-Net Reviews

“Phillips’ thesis that history can only improve with contributions from stories and storytellers makes room for a lot of good, fresh discussion. . . . The pieces are nicely written, and they hang together well especially as we note that they started out as conference papers.”—South Carolina Review

“A stimulating and ground-breaking demonstration of the potential of storytelling to revitalize history....The approaches advocated in this volume can enrich all histories, for all histories are incomplete and contain unjust silences.”—Arkansas Review

“[A] provocative, insightful gathering of essays....Highly recommended.”—Choice

“Although they examine southern literature, politics, religion, and culture, each of the essayists in this fine anthology also ponders the nature of history and narrative in the postmodern world. . . . These essays invite readers to confront human fallibility, appreciating that human beings understand the world and the past as much from the inside out as from the outside in. It is a humbling perspective.”—Journal of American History

“Jason Phillips' able contributors . . . approach a marvelous range of literary and historical subjects and sources with an equally marvelous range of methods and voices, but readers will find it impossible to ignore one common conviction: While every contributor is finished with the master’s narrative and master narratives, none is giving up on narrative. They all see attention to literature as essential to historical understanding. They all see attention to literary form as essential to historical writing. No one could read this elegant and illuminating book and conclude that storytelling is dead. It is everywhere, in the South’s postmodern present no less than its modern and pre-modern pasts.”—James Goodman, author of Stories of Scottsboro

“Whose stories are understood as history, and whose history becomes well-worn stories? In dazzling ways, these scholars reread, rethink, and unthink the master narratives of the U.S. South before, during, and after the Civil War, creating a truly multivocal, polyphonic, and contrapuntal fugue of narratives. Best of all, the authors talk to their readers and speak from their own experiences—and from their hearts.”—Martha Hodes, author of The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

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