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Reviewed by:
  • Keywords for Southern Studies ed. by Scott Romine and Jennifer Rae Greeson
  • Michael Kreyling
Keywords for Southern Studies. Ed. Scott Romine and Jennifer Rae Greeson. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2016. 411 pp. $89.95 hardcover; $32.95 paperback.

Keywords for Southern Studies, as of this review, the eighteenth volume in The New Southern Studies series published by the University of Georgia Press, begins with Houston Baker's essay "Incarceration" and ends with Jon Smith's "Trauma." Except for Scott Romine, whose essay on "Consumption" has some fun with the peregrinations of grits on US restaurant menus, there is not much relief from a uniformly deliberate and professional tone. Keywords for Southern Studies plants the impression that, whatever the Old Southern Studies was, the New Southern Studies (NSS) is serious professional business, part of the variously named new world studies or global south studies or world-systems studies, a definite break with the Old that prevailed over most of the twentieth century until the 1990s and privileged literary criticism over cultural studies. Co-editors Romine and Jennifer Rae Greeson have assembled thirty contributors, divided their short (9–12 page) essays into five subheadings (Regimes, Places, Peoples, Approaches, and Structures of Feeling), minimized footnotes, and appended to each essay a similarly short list of suggested further reading. There is a thorough, thirty-page list of works cited. If you are teaching anything in or adjacent to southern studies, this is mandatory boot camp. You and your students will benefit richly from Keywords; it condenses the temperament and intellectual style of NSS, models its theoretical matrix, supplies the working vocabulary.

Its patron and precedent is Raymond Williams's Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, originally published in 1976 and then again in a revised and expanded edition in 1983. Williams's Keywords was originally planned as a primer for an actively Marxist revisionist and disruptive reading of British culture and its manifestations—including literary texts—at the time entrenched in the essentialisms (English-ness, literary-ness) sponsored by T. S. Eliot and the Leavises, and literally built into the Oxford/Cambridge university establishment. Greeson briefly mentions Williams in her essay "Nation" (33–34), but readers could take her lead further into the blunt words of Terry Eagleton in Literary Theory, another foe of the reigning cultural [End Page 105] orthodoxy in literary (over cultural) criticism. The gist of Raymond Williams's work, Eagleton claims, argues that "organic societies are just convenient myths for belabouring the mechanized life of modern industrial capitalism" (36). And so it is in Keywords for Southern Studies, where the South of the Old Southern Studies stands in for the myth of "organic society," and "modern industrial capitalism" is reconstituted as the Global South with its wide array of peoples and regions, its capital flows and coerced labor, its contact zones and commodity-driven economies. In Keywords for Southern Studies, the category "southerner" includes Native American (Eric Gary Anderson), Creole (Shirley Elizabeth Thompson), Latino/a (Claudia Milian), the Folk (Erich Nunn), and Queer (Michael P. Bibler). Suzanne W. Jones's "Black and White," of which more later in this review, focuses on people of mixed race. As with southerners, so with the South itself, which in Keywords morphs into the "Black Atlantic" (Keith Cartwright), "Tropics" (Natalie J. Ring), "Haiti" (Anna Brickhouse), and "Global South" (Eric Lott). "America," as the national enfolding term, comes under cross-examination in Deborah Cohn's essay. In Wanda Rushing's contribution, "Region," the consensus on region's meaning (at least as that consensus flowed from the work of Howard Odum in the 1930s and John Shelton Reed later in the twentieth century) loosens a bit. "Region," as the central term of the discourse, does not wholly disappear in Rushing's survey, but is replaced by "emplaced social phenomena" (129). One step in the discourse leading to the next, "region" becomes the abstract or generalized term and "place" becomes the particularized, lived reality. Or: "region" is global, "place" is local. Furtive distinctions, such as this one, energize Keywords on a level deeper than its conscious organizational scheme. In her essay on "Exceptionalism," for example, Sylvia Shin Huey Chong notes that as the...


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