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‘There are So Many Horrible Examples of Regional Writers, and the South is Loaded’

  • Eudora Welty
  • Caroline Gordon
  • Katherine Anne Porter
  • Flannery O’Connor

Abstract

The critics have not agreed with Flannery O’Connor’s dismissive joke. For them, rather than ‘horrible examples’ the South has supplied some of the best of modern American writing. While O’Connor warns of the facile diminution of the area’s literature to ‘regional writers’, critics including Louis Rubin, Richard Gray and C. Hugh Holman discover a richly serious body of conscious artists. They emphasise the centrality of history to the Southern writer; the tragedy at the imaginative heart of this literature; the interest in religion; the attentiveness to the material specificities of life and the suspicion of abstract philosophising. Southern literature seems to possess sufficient coherence as a corpus of work to sustain generalisations such as the comment that these writers ‘have tended to depict man’s nature as being religious, to view the individual very much as a creature of time and history, to assume the individual’s commitment to society and his determining role within it’.2 One is also struck by the assumption in these critical accounts that Southern writing encompasses both men and women. Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor: all have featured regularly in critical accounts since the 1950s. Indeed, there is a strong case for suggesting that literary criticism of the South was feminist avant la lèttre.3

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Notes

  1. 1.
    ‘An Interview with Flannery O’Connor and Robert Penn Warren’, Vagabond (Vanderbilt University), 4 (February 1960), pp. 9–17Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Louis D. Rubin and Robert D. Jacobs, ‘Introduction’ to South: Modem Southern Literature in its Cultural Setting (1961; Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974), p. 12.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Two important accounts of the field: C. Hugh Holman, The Roots of Southern Writing: Essays on the Literature of the American South (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1972)Google Scholar
  4. Richard Gray, The Literature of Memory (London: Edward Arnold, 1977).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Carla Kaplan, ‘Reading Feminist Readings: Recuperative Reading and the Silent Heroine of Feminist Criticism’, in Elaine Hedges and Shelley Fisher Fishkin (eds), Listening to Silences: New Essays in Feminist Criticism (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 168–94.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Eudora Welty, One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression — A Snapshot Album (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 3Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Eudora Welty, ‘Preface’ to The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (London: Penguin, 1983), p. x.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 68–9.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Patricia S. Yaeger, ‘“Because a Fire Was in My Head”: Eudora Welty and the Dialogic Imagination’, PMLA, 99 (1984), pp. 955–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 13.
    Harold Bloom, ‘Introduction’, Modern Critical Views: Eudora Welty (New York: Chelsea House, 1986), p. 6.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Eudora Welty, Losing Battles (1970; London: Virago, 1986), p. 155.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927; London: Virago, 1981), p. 199.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding (1945; London: Virago, 1982), p. 30.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 25.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Katherine Anne Porter, The Days Before (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952), p. 110.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    Joan Givner, Katherine Anne Porter: A Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), pp. 360Google Scholar
  17. Janis P. Stout, Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1995), p. 130.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    Katherine Anne Porter, ‘Pale Horse, Pale Rider’, in The Collected Stories (London: Jonathan Cape, 1964), p. 306.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    On this subject see Nina Baym, ‘The Myth of the Myth of Southern Womanhood’, Feminism and American Literary History (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992), pp. 183–96.Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    Eudora Welty, ‘The Eye of the Story’ (1965) in R. P. Warren (ed.), Katherine Anne Porter: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979), pp. 72–80.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    Katherine Anne Porter, ‘Flowering Judas’, in Flowering Judas and Other Stories (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936), pp. 148Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    Caroline Gordon, None Shall Look Back (1937; New York: Cooper Square, 1971), pp. 102–3.Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    Frederick Hoffman, ‘Caroline Gordon: The Special Yield’, Critique, 1 (1956), pp. 29–35Google Scholar
  24. 27.
    Caroline Gordon, ‘Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood’, Critique, 2 (1958), pp. 3–10Google Scholar
  25. 28.
    Joyce Carol Oates, ‘The Action of Mercy’, The Kenyon Review, 20 (1998), pp. 157–60Google Scholar
  26. 29.
    Flannery O’Connor, letters to Miss Cecil Dawkins: 19 May 1957, in The Habit of Being: Letters, ed. Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979), p. 221Google Scholar
  27. 30.
    Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971; London: Faber & Faber, 1990), p. 508.Google Scholar
  28. 31.
    Jon Lance Bacon, Flannery O’Connor and Cold War Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 3Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Guy Reynolds 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eudora Welty
  • Caroline Gordon
  • Katherine Anne Porter
  • Flannery O’Connor

There are no affiliations available

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