How History Changes – Southern History & Southern Literature
The events that take place in our past create a lasting effect that can be seen in almost every aspect of our lives. When reviewing how these historical events cause great changes, it is best to look at the literature from the time period. Literature is important to its time frame because it represents how and what the people living in that era felt. The literature of the Southern States of America, “Southern Literature”, has gone through two important events in history, The Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, which have lead to great advancements in the further development of the type of literature. Along with these historical occurrences there were plenty of new authors and writers, but Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor where three authors that individually shaped their periods of Southern Literature.
To understand how history shaped Southern Literature into what it was then and what it is now, a reader has to know that Southern Literature is basically literature written by Southern writers about the issues and lifestyles of the South. The characteristics of Southern Literature include; common southern history, the importance of family, the importance of community, religion, race, land and the promise it brings, sense of social class, and the use of Southern dialect. Most of these characteristics are found in works of Southern Literature, but they do not limit them. Southern/American Literature has been present since the Americas were inhibited by the first expeditions to Virginia. Most of the literature around that time was the same in the North and the South. It wasn’t until 1840 when the increasing divergence of economic, political, and social conditions started to create a specific “Southern Literature” that reflected the concerns and attitudes that would survive as continuing elements of Southern Literature. Most of these works reflected the lifestyle, too, of the people living in the South during that time frame. The majority of the Southerners were farmers with the white plantation owners and their abundance of slaves, along with all the lower class “white trash”. This time period of Southern Literature is referred to as the “antebellum literature”. It was prevalent in the 17th century in the years before the Civil War. Much of these works, however, were destroyed in the Civil War, but as devastating as the Civil War was to the economy and the population of the United States, it actually benefited the literature.
One event that forever changed the United States of America was by far the Civil War, and even though people thought it would completely destroy the Southern State and their morale, it was actually beneficial to the overall development of the Literature of the South. The Civil war took place in America from the years 1861 to 1865. It was brought upon when the South seceded from the North because of many conflicting issues, one primarily being slavery. While history books teach us it “ruined” the South when they eventually lost the war, they don’t teach us of the good affects it had on the literature.
The war itself put Southerners in the position where they had room to expand their literature. Rubin’s The History of Southern Literature, points out two main contributions the war made: “First, the formation of the Confederacy and its national call to arms encouraged in Southerners and examination of their regional identity. Second, the war forced the South to rely more fully on its own literature rather than those of New England and the North.” (Rubin 178). During the actual time span of the war, most of the literature production in the South had stopped. It wasn’t until after the war, and the harsh Reconstruction time, that the literature started to finally take off.
When the war eventually ended with the South’s defeat in 1865, the Southern States of America were faced with a difficult...
Cited: Castille, Phillip, and William Osborne. Southern Literature in Transition: Heritage and Promise. Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1983.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Comp. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. Pg. 90-97.
Flora, Joseph M., and Lucinda H. Mackethan. The Companion to Southern Literature: Themes, Genres, Places, People, Movements, and Motifs. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University, 2002.
Humphries, Jefferson. Southern Literature and Literary Theory. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1990.
O’Conner, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Comp. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. Pg. 430-440.
Rubin Jr., Louis D. The History of Southern Literature. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1985.
Smith, Lee. “On Southern Change and Permanence”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Comp. Micheal Meyer. Boston:Bedford/St. Martins, 2005.
“Southern Literature”. 26 Feb 2007. Wikipedia. 13 May 2007. http://ed.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Literature.
Twain, Mark. “The Story of the Good Little Boy”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Comp. Micheal Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005.
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