1001 More Things Everyone Should Know about the South

Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2001

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1001 More Things Everyone Should Know about the South

by Doris Betts
Southern Cultures, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2001

"Nobody enjoys getting his tongue extended far into his cheek more than Reed, and few have such a reach."

As a fiction writer, I used to complain that sociology was the academic discipline most opposite, in some cases even most inimical, to literature. After all, the average sociologist seemed to conduct boring surveys that led to obvious conclusions from which he could generalize about huge numbers of human beings–all of them imbedded in, rendered anonymous by, some undefined “society.” That society so molded them that even “free choice” was only one more constraint imposed from outside by a social institution. Determinism ruled. By contrast, we novelists only hinted our tentative conclusions about human nature after depicting singular human beings in particular circumstances. Their free choices spilled out all over the page. Deductive vs. inductive? In any case, my average sociologist, even if he had an interesting generalization to share, often obscured it in heavy prose, thick with jargon.