Vietnam and the Southern Imagination (Review)

Return to issue

Vietnam and the Southern Imagination (Review)

by Melton A. McLaurin
Southern Cultures, Vol. 1, No. 1: Fall 1994

University Press of Mississippi, 1992.

The southern imagination, Owen Gilman contends, is alive and well and busily contemplating the tragic experience of Vietnam. Gilman limits his definition of imagination to creative writers, essentially novelists, although he examines several short stories and devotes a chapter to “the southern poet’s Vietnam.” His thesis is straightforward: Southerners have produced a literature on Vietnam that “has a unique character” because their sense of history provides them with “knowledge carried to the heart.” Having established that claim (for which he relies heavily on the work of Allen Tate), Gilman proceeds in subsequent chapters to show how the southern past has shaped the way contemporary south- ern authors have dealt with Vietnam.