University of Georgia Press

The New Southern Studies

Jon Smith and Riché Richardson, Series Editors

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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The New Southern Studies

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American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary

Deborah Barker

Employing innovations in media studies, southern cultural studies, and approaches to the global South, this collection of essays examines aspects of the southern imaginary in American cinema and offers fresh insight into the evolving field of southern film studies.
 
In their introduction, Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee argue that the southern imaginary in film is not contained by the boundaries of geography and genre; it is not an offshoot or subgenre of mainstream American film but is integral to the history and the development of American cinema.
 
Ranging from the silent era to the present and considering Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent films, the contributors incorporate the latest scholarship in a range of disciplines. The volume is divided into three sections: “Rereading the South” uses new critical perspectives to reassess classic Hollywood films; “Viewing the Civil Rights South” examines changing approaches to viewing race and class in the post–civil rights era; and “Crossing Borders” considers the influence of postmodernism, postcolonialism, and media studies on recent southern films.
 
The contributors to American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary complicate the foundational term “southern,” in some places stretching the traditional boundaries of regional identification until they all but disappear and in others limning a persistent and sometimes self-conscious performance of place that intensifies its power.

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Apples and Ashes

Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America

Coleman Hutchison

Apples and Ashes offers the first literary history of the Civil War South. The product of extensive archival research, it tells an expansive story about a nation struggling to write itself into existence. Confederate literature was in intimate conversation with other contemporary literary cultures, especially those of the United States and Britain. Thus, Coleman Hutchison argues, it has profound implications for our understanding of American literary nationalism and the relationship between literature and nationalism more broadly.

Apples and Ashes is organized by genre, with each chapter using a single text or a small set of texts to limn a broader aspect of Confederate literary culture. Hutchison discusses an understudied and diverse archive of literary texts including the literary criticism of Edgar Allan Poe; southern responses to Uncle Tom’s Cabin; the novels of Augusta Jane Evans; Confederate popular poetry; the de facto Confederate national anthem, “Dixie”; and several postwar southern memoirs. In addition to emphasizing the centrality of slavery to the Confederate literary imagination, the book also considers a series of novel topics: the reprinting of European novels in the Confederate South, including Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables; Confederate propaganda in Europe; and postwar Confederate emigration to Latin America.

In discussing literary criticism, fiction, poetry, popular song, and memoir, Apples and Ashes reminds us of Confederate literature’s once-great expectations. Before their defeat and abjection—before apples turned to ashes in their mouths—many Confederates thought they were in the process of creating a nation and a national literature that would endure.

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Black Masculinity and the U.S. South

From Uncle Tom to Gangsta

Riché Richardson

This pathbreaking study of region, race, and gender reveals how we underestimate the South's influence on the formation of black masculinity at the national level. Many negative stereotypes of black men—often contradictory ones—have emerged from the ongoing historical traumas initiated by slavery. Are black men emasculated and submissive or hypersexed and violent? Nostalgic representations of black men have arisen as well: think of the philosophical, hardworking sharecropper or the abiding, upright preacher. To complicate matters, says Riché Richardson, blacks themselves appropriate these images for purposes never intended by their (mostly) white progenitors.


Starting with such well-known caricatures as the Uncle Tom and the black rapist, Richardson investigates a range of pathologies of black masculinity that derive ideological force from their associations with the South. Military policy, black-liberation discourse, and contemporary rap, she argues, are just some of the instruments by which egregious pathologies of black masculinity in southern history have been sustained. Richardson's sources are eclectic and provocative, including Ralph Ellison's fiction, Charles Fuller's plays, Spike Lee's films, Huey Newton's and Malcolm X's political rhetoric, the O. J. Simpson discourse, and the music production of Master P, the Cash Money Millionaires, and other Dirty South rappers.


Filled with new insights into the region's role in producing hierarchies of race and gender in and beyond their African American contexts, this new study points the way toward more epistemological frameworks for southern literature, southern studies, and gender studies.

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Disturbing Calculations

The Economics of Identity in Postcolonial Southern Literature, 1912-2002

Melanie R. Benson

In Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, Margaret Leonard says, “Never mind about algebra here. That's for poor folks. There's no need for algebra where two and two make five.” Moments of mathematical reckoning like this pervade twentieth-century southern literature, says Melanie R. Benson. In fiction by a large, diverse group of authors, including William Faulkner, Anita Loos, William Attaway, Dorothy Allison, and Lan Cao, Benson identifies a calculation-obsessed, anxiety-ridden discourse in which numbers are employed to determine social and racial hierarchies and establish individual worth and identity.

This “narcissistic fetish of number” speaks to a tangle of desires and denials rooted in the history of the South, capitalism, and colonialism. No one evades participation in these “disturbing equations,” says Benson, wherein longing for increase, accumulation, and superiority collides with repudiation of the means by which material wealth is attained. Writers from marginalized groups--including African Americans, Native Americans, women, immigrants, and the poor--have deeply internalized and co-opted methods and tropes of the master narrative even as they have struggled to wield new voices unmarked by the discourse of the colonizer.

Having nominally emerged from slavery's legacy, the South is now situated in the agonized space between free market capitalism and social progressivism. Elite southerners work to distance themselves from capitalism's dehumanizing mechanisms, while the marginalized yearn to realize the uniquely American narrative of accumulation and ascent. The fetish of numbers emerges to signify the futility of both.

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Finding Purple America

The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies

Jon Smith

The new southern studies has had an uneasy relationship with both American studies and the old southern studies. In Finding Purple America, Jon Smith, one of the founders of the new movement, locates the source of that unease in the fundamentally antimodern fantasies of both older fields.

The old southern studies tends to view modernity as a threat to a mystic southern essence—a dangerous outside force taking the form of everything from a "bulldozer revolution" to a "national project of forgetting." Since the rise of the New Americanists, American studies has also imagined itself to be in a permanent crisis mode, seeking to affiliate the field and the national essence with youth countercultures that sixties leftists once imagined to be "the future." Such fantasies, Smith argues, have resulted in an old southern studies that cannot understand places like Birmingham or Atlanta (or cities at all) and an American studies that cannot understand red states.

Most Americans live in neither a comforting, premodern Mayberry nor an exciting, postmodern Los Angeles but rather in what postcolonialists call "alternative modernities" and "hybrid cultures" whose relationships to past and future, to stability and change, are complex and ambivalent. Looking at how "the South" has played in global metropolitan pop culture since the nineties and at how southern popular and high culture alike have, in fact, repeatedly embraced urban modernity, Smith masterfully weaves together postcolonial theory, cultural studies, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and, surprisingly, marketing theory to open up the inconveniently in-between purple spaces and places that Americanist and southernist fantasies about "who we are"have so long sought to foreclose.

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Grounded Globalism

How the U.S. South Embraces the World

James L. Peacock

The world is flat? Maybe not, says this paradigm-shifting study of globalism's impact on a region legendarily resistant to change. The U.S. South, long defined in terms of its differences with the U.S. North, is moving out of this national and oppositional frame of reference into one that is more international and integrative. Likewise, as the South (home to UPS, CNN, KFC, and other international brands) goes global, people are emigrating there from countries like India, Mexico, and Vietnam--and becoming southerners. Much has been made of the demographic and economic aspects of this shift. Until now, though, no one has systematically shown what globalism means to the southern sense of self.

Anthropologist James L. Peacock looks at the South of both the present and the past to develop the idea of "grounded globalism," in which global forces and local cultures rooted in history, tradition, and place reverberate against each other in mutually sustaining and energizing ways. Peacock's focus is on a particular part of the world; however, his model is widely relevant: "Some kind of grounding in locale is necessary to human beings."

Grounded Globalism draws on perspectives from fields as diverse as ecology, anthropology, religion, and history to move us beyond the model, advanced by such scholars as C. Vann Woodward, that depicts the South as a region paralyzed by the burden of its past. Peacock notes that, while globalism may lift old burdens, it may at the same time impose new ones. He also maintains that earlier regional identities have not been replaced by the rootless cosmopolitanism of cyberspace or other abstracted systems. Attachments to place remain, even as worldwide markets erase boundaries and flatten out differences and distinctions among nations. Those attachments exert their own pressures back on globalism, says Peacock, with subtle strengths we should not discount.

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Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs

Tess Chakkalakal

Imperium in Imperio (1899) was the first black novel to countenance openly the possibility of organized black violence against Jim Crow segregation. Its author, a Baptist minister and newspaper editor from Texas, Sutton E. Griggs (1872–1933), would go on to publish four more novels; establish his own publishing company, one of the first secular publishing houses owned and operated by an African American in the United States; and help to found the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Tennessee. Alongside W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, Griggs was a key political and literary voice for black education and political rights and against Jim Crow.

Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs examines the wide scope of Griggs’s influence on African American literature and politics at the turn of the twentieth century. Contributors engage Griggs’s five novels and his numerous works of nonfiction, as well as his publishing and religious careers. By taking up Griggs’s work, these essays open up a new historical perspective on African American literature and the terms that continue to shape American political thought and culture.

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Latining America

Black-Brown Passages and the Coloring of Latino/a Studies

Claudia Milian

With Latining America, Claudia Milian proposes that the economies of blackness, brownness, and dark brownness summon a new grammar for Latino/a studies that she names “Latinities.” Milian’s innovative study argues that this ensnared economy of meaning startles the typical reading practices deployed for brown Latino/a embodiment.

Latining America keeps company with and challenges existent models of Latinidad, demanding a distinct paradigm that puts into question what is understood as Latino and Latina today. Milian conceptually considers how underexplored “Latin” participants––the southern, the black, the dark brown, the Central American—have ushered in a new world of “Latined” signification from the 1920s to the present.

Examining not who but what constitutes the Latino and Latina, Milian’s new critical Latinities disentangle the brown logic that marks “Latino/a” subjects. She expands on and deepens insights in transamerican discourses, narratives of passing, popular culture, and contemporary art. This daring and original project uncovers previously ignored and unremarked upon cultural connections and global crossings whereby African Americans and Latinos traverse and reconfigure their racialized classifications.

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Reading for the Body

The Recalcitrant Materiality of Southern Fiction, 1893-1985

Jay Watson

Jay Watson argues that southern literary studies has been overidealized and dominated by intellectual history for too long. In Reading for the Body, he calls for the field to be rematerialized and grounded in an awareness of the human body as the site where ideas, including ideas about the U.S. South itself, ultimately happen.

Employing theoretical approaches to the body developed by thinkers such as Karl Marx, Colette Guillaumin, Elaine Scarry, and Friedrich Kittler, Watson also draws on histories of bodily representation to mine a century of southern fiction for its insights into problems that have preoccupied the region and nation alike: slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy; the marginalization of women; the impact of modernization; the issue of cultural authority and leadership; and the legacy of the Vietnam War. He focuses on the specific bodily attributes of hand, voice, and blood and the deeply embodied experiences of pain, illness, pregnancy, and war to offer new readings of a distinguished group of literary artists who turned their attention to the South: Mark Twain, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Katherine Anne Porter, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Walker Percy.

In producing an intensely embodied U.S. literature these writers, Watson argues, were by turns extending and interrogating a centuries-old tradition in U.S. print culture, in which the recalcitrant materiality of the body serves as a trope for the regional alterity of the South. Reading for the Body makes a powerful case for the body as an important methodological resource for a new southern studies.

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Reconstructing the Native South

American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause

Melanie Benson Taylor

In Reconstructing the Native South, Melanie Benson Taylor examines the diverse body of Native American literature in the contemporary U.S. South—literature written by the descendants of tribes who evaded Removal and have maintained ties with their southeastern homelands. In so doing Taylor advances a provocative, even counterintuitive claim: that the U.S. South and its Native American survivors have far more in common than mere geographical proximity. Both cultures have long been haunted by separate histories of loss and nostalgia, Taylor contends, and the moments when those experiences converge in explicit and startling ways have yet to be investigated by scholars. These convergences often bear the scars of protracted colonial antagonism, appropriation, and segregation, and they share preoccupations with land, sovereignty, tradition, dispossession, subjugation, purity, and violence.

Taylor poses difficult questions in this work. In the aftermath of Removal and colonial devastation, what remains—for Native and non-Native southerners—to be recovered? Is it acceptable to identify an Indian “lost cause”? Is a deep sense of hybridity and intercultural affiliation the only coherent way forward, both for the New South and for its oldest inhabitants? And in these newly entangled, postcolonial environments, has global capitalism emerged as the new enemy for the twenty-first century? Reconstructing the Native South is a compellingly original work that contributes to conversations in Native American, southern, and transnational American studies.

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