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116Southern Cultures Foster ("Parents and Children in Autobiography by Southern Afro-American Writers ") and Bloom ("Coming of Age in the Segregated South: Autobiographies of TwentiethCentury Childhoods, Black and White") focus directly on the relationship between separation , segregation, and the process of coming of age. They also illuminate the role gender plays in autobiographies by black women of the American South. And finally, Walter Sullivan ("Strange Children: Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate") delves behind the public image, illuminates the connection between a writer's life and work, and provides us with a case study of how Tate and Gordon converted the personal details of their lives into literary production. In section 3, "Personal Narratives," five (white) sons of the South (George Garrett, Samuel F. Pickering, Jr., Pat C. Hoy II, James Baker Hall, and Dave Smith) share their personal histories or recall defining moments that stamp them as children of the South. They take pride in their southern roots and live with a knowledge that they are both enriched by their past and liberated from it. Their personal narratives elaborate what have indeed become twin staples of southern poetics: identity and family, and identity and place make the South a "home ground" unlike any other region in the United States. Southern autobiography serves as one site for black and white writers and readers to effect an aesthetics of reconciliation. But in a book that promises to bring new vigor to the interpretation of the culture and consciousness of the American South, I would like to have seen an examination of the dialectical tension that exists between the Fugitives and James Weldon Johnson, whose autobiography, Along This Way (1933), provides an alternative reading of the ideology that governed the (then) New South. Such a study would bring into sharper focus the relationship between the dominators and the dominated and make clear how power is pivotally connected with the production of discourse. Until we reconfigure the terms of the ideological debate, the study of southern autobiography will remain an exercise in the conjugation of cultural politics. The essays in Home Ground presage the end of literary disfranchisement in southern letters and mark the beginning of an intimate discussion of ideology, race, and gender in southern autobiographical discourse. We can expect future studies to examine the influence of major bodies of theory (Marxism, African-American cultural theory, post-structuralism , and feminism) on the body of literature known as southern autobiography. It is in this sense that Home Ground serves as a prolegomenon to a more democratic "Republic of Letters" of the American South. The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction. By Edward L. Ayers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 572 pp. Cloth, $30.00. Reviewed by Robert C. McMath, Jr., Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His latest books include Toward a New South? Studies in Post-Civil War Southern Communities and American Populism: A Social History, 1877-1898. Edward Ayers confesses that while he was working on The Promise ofthe New South "someone else's book was never far from my mind." For more than forty years, C. Vann Woodward 's magisterial Origins ofthe New South, 1877-1913 has never been far from the minds of Reviews117 those who write about the post-Reconstruction South. Origins has so dominated the field that even its challengers have worked largely within its categories. Woodward stood the received tradition on its head. The white southerners who wrested power away from the Reconstructionists were not restorers of a lost order, but new men, commercial in orientation, who maintained political power by fending off challenges from rural whites and by raising the battle cry of race. Their economic power was circumscribed, however, because the South remained something of a colonial appendage of the Northeast. Less focused on the exercise of political power than Woodward or his critics, Ayers has assembled a montage of concrete images that evokes the fluidity and contingency of everyday southern life. There are fewer heroes and villains than in Woodward's story, but there is a heightened sense of the complex causes of change in an era which, at its beginnings , gave white and black southerners reason to imagine "unprecedented...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 116-118
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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