Southern Writers and Their Worlds edited by Christopher Morris and Steven G. Reinhardt (review)

Southern Writers and Their Worlds edited by Christopher Morris and Steven G. Reinhardt (Texas A&M University Press, 1996)

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Southern Writers and Their Worlds edited by Christopher Morris and Steven G. Reinhardt (review)

by Tonita Branan
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 1: Spring 1997

Texas A&M University Press, 1996

The five essays in Southern Writers and Their Worlds confirm literary critic Jefferson 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 ofsubjects 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 of color; notably, when race bears on this collection, it is chiefly in terms of white authors’ perceptions and experience. Even so, Southern Writers and Their Worlds contributes vitally to southern letters by offering five variant and fresh interdisciplinary approaches.