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Apocalypse South

Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary

Anthony Dyer Hoefer

Publication Year: 2012

While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture. Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures. 

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

During the years that I’ve been thinking about the questions and problems addressed in this book, I’ve been fortunate to belong to several intellectually rich communities and to have the friendship, guidance, and support of many kind, smart people. Without their generosity, insight, advice, mentoring, feedback, poking, prodding, and cajoling, this book would not exist. At Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina: I owe particular ...

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Introduction: Tracing the Apocalyptic Imaginary

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pp. 1-17

The Carter Family recorded “No Depression (in Heaven)” in 1936, the same year that Dorothea Lange photographed “Migrant Mother” and that James Agee and Walker Evans first began the project that would become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Though the song was a selection from a popular shaped-note songbook rather than an original composition, it remains among their most notable and frequently ...

Part I

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1. Southern Jeremiad, American Jeremiad

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pp. 21-60

“Does a coherent system of religious values and thought inform Faulkner’s novels?” Doreen Fowler asks (ix). Given William Faulkner’s position as the preeminent chronicler of a culture dominated by evangelical Protestantism, her question is all but unavoidable. The New Critics, always among some of Faulkner’s earliest and most ardent proponents, looked ...

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2. “Tearing Down the Temple”

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pp. 61-98

Throughout his life and his works, writes his biographer Michel Fabre, Richard Wright “attempted to reject what the South stood for in his mind but he also kept reaffirming, repeatedly and compulsively, what it had meant for him and how he had been molded by it” (78). If the word ...

Part II

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3. “Some Say Ain’t No Earthly Explanation”

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pp. 101-129

THROUGHOUT this book, I have argued that expressions of a southern “sense of place,” aiming for something just short of prophesy, are inextri-cably bound up with the apocalyptic world view offered by southern reli-gion. “[A]n overdeveloped eschatological sense is one of the more enduring characteristics of the southern literary tradition,” writes Scott Romine. ...

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4. “An’t It Time the Lord Did Something?”

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pp. 130-153

In a 1993 conversation published in the Village Voice Literary Supplement, Randall Kenan and Dorothy Allison held forth on a wide-range of topics, including snakes, their shared Carolina backgrounds, and ultimately, the political imperatives of their work. “What can you write about more urgently than some 70-year-old woman depending on her social ...

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5. Apocalypse South, Redux—Searching for Meaning after the Flood

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pp. 154-171

Writing in the aftermath of the hurricane and flood that nearly destroyed his city, the New Orleans poet Peter Cooley struggled mightily and profoundly to wrest meaning from devastation: I see a city in tears abomination of desolation, bodies of the drowned afloat in back streets, ...


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pp. 173-181


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pp. 182-188

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270349
E-ISBN-10: 0814270344
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212011
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212018

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Lori Branch See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 868220086
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Apocalypse South