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terial on the New South need to look elsewhere. Grantham's emphasis is oldfashioned —that is to say, primarily political—but then the interface between North and South has been largely political. Still, the breadth of coverage and depdi of analysis are unequaled, and he offers a new integrative account of the peculiarities of the South's position in modern America. Southern Writers and Their Worlds Edited by Christopher Morris and Steven G. Reinhardt Texas A&M University Press, 1996 176 pp. Cloth, $24.95 Reviewed by Toñita Branan, a doctoral candidate in English at Michigan State University. She has published articles on southern women's writing in The Southern LiteraryJournal and The Southern Quarterly and is currendy at work on her dissertation, "To Make a Place: Human Geography and Twentieth-Century Southern literature." The five essays in Southern Writers and Their Worlds confirm literary criticJefferson Humphries's assertion that "it is no longer possible to separate the literary from the historical." Specifically, each piece in this volume assumes the same goal: to untangle the precarious relation between a text and its author's expressly southern cultural situation. The range of subjects is indeed impressive: nineteenth-century southern humor and the rise of a national market economy, Louisa McCord's works (both personal and political) and gender/race analogies of the early and mid-nineteenth century, the profoundly different responses of male and female Southern Renaissance writers to modernist conceptions of gender, the widespread tendency toward melancholy among southern authors between the two world wars, and the late-1960s critical debate over white writer William Styron's choice to "be" the rebel slave, Nat Turner, through the guise of first-person narrative . To round out this otherwise admirable scope, readers can only wish that editors Christopher Morris and Steven G. Reinhardt had included essays on southern writers ofcolor; notably, when race bears on this collection, it is chiefly in terms ofwhite authors' perceptions and experience. Even so, Southern Writers and Their Worlds contributes vitally to southern letters by offering five variant and fresh interdisciplinary approaches. In the Introduction Michael O'Brien suggests that this very willingness to couReviews 87 pie literature and history in fact saves the volume from poststructuralist flaws. Characterizing poststructuralism as rooted in post-World War II French cynicism , as indifferent to social issues, and as obsessed with methodology and "the linguistic turn," O'Brien regrets that American academics increasingly "inhabit" the movement's "more paltry universe." Yet the scholars featured in Southern Writers and Their Worlds, he contends, avoid recent theory's intellectual narcissism by striving "to render the South's literature and history intelligible" and by crossing disciplinary lines. Frankly , I find O'Brien's distinctions baffling. By a poststructuralist preoccupation with words, I assume that he refers to Derridean deconstruction , but O'Brien never names names; surely, though, he would include Roland Barthes or Michel Foucault in his general sweep of French theory since 1945? And does not Barthes's Mythologies (first published in 1957) insist that signsystems be studied within the real-life contexts that generate them? Does not Foucault's Discipline and Punish (first American edition published in 1978) unravel the circulation of power in France's penal network by means of an analysis thoroughly grounded in politics, history, philosophy, and architecture? So I find myself supporting O'Brien's enthusiasm for interdisciplinary techniques but confused by his view that they are not a part of French or "poststructural" trends (certainly whether Barthes or Foucault counts as poststructuralist is up for grabs, but I use O'Brien's 1945 division). It seems to me unfortunate that this volume is presented as having overcome the necessary evils of theory by making subjects "intelligible," since some of the essays set forth coherent, helpful theoretical frameworks (in particular, Anne GoodwynJones's piece), and since soutiiern literary scholars such as Lewis Simpson, Jefferson Humphries, and John T. Irwin have long advised and/or modeled close attention to continental thought. The collection's lead-off essay, Christopher Morris's "What's So Funny? Southern Humorists and the Market Revolution," analyzes nineteenth-century horse-trading tales, short stories, and newspaper sketches—all set in the South or along its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 87-90
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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