Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South

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Jason Phillips
LSU Press, Jun 10, 2013 - History - 240 pages
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On November 5, 1968, Ralph Ellison stood up at the Southern Historical Association meeting in New Orleans and called the members gathered there “respectable liars,” thus exposing the link between “official” history and the dominant consciousness of the time. Historian Jason Phillips refers to such scholarship as “master narratives”—stories masquerading as truth that promote the interests of white patriarchy past and present. In this innovative collection, Phillips and ten other historians and literary scholars explore an enduring dynamic between history, literature, and power in the American South. Blending analysis with storytelling, and professional insights with personal experiences, they “deconstruct Dixie,” insisting that writing the South’s history means harnessing, not criticizing, the inherent power of narrative. The contributors examine white southern narratives from multiple, fresh perspectives and consider ways in which storytelling helped shape identity and mold scholarship over time. Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that William Percy’s life and work blurred fact and fiction as he negotiated the anti-intellectual conventions of a rural, hierarchical South as a cosmopolitan and homosexual. Orville Vernon Burton and Ian Binnington investigate nationalism, local allegiances, and the imagined community of the Confederacy. Farrell O’Gorman, Jewel L. Spangler, David A. Davis, Robert Jackson, Anne Marshall, K. Stephen Prince, and Jim Downs explore diverse topics such as southern Gothic fiction and the centrality of religion, white trash autobiographies, the “professional southerner” in literature and criticism, and the “one-drop rule” of racial taxonomy in America. Like Ellison, these writers look beyond ideology and race, including how often-overlooked, basic elements of a work—such as its form, plot, aesthetics, or genre—can re- or deconstruct white southern power. Showcasing new ways of interpreting texts, they encourage historians and literary scholars to move beyond theory to engage the historical context of southern stories and storytelling while reading evidence more deeply and stories more broadly.
 

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Contents

The Liars at the Jung Hotel
1
Will Percy and Lanterns on the Levee Revisited
12
The Southern Gothic Religion and US Historical Narrative
43
Robert Penn Warren C Vann Woodward and Historical Practice
70
Or Taking Thomas Nelson Page Seriously
88
A Rereading of Revolutionary Virginias Baptist Revolt
105
National and Local Perspectives on Confederate Nationalism
126
Rosina Downs and the Proliferation of Racial Categories after the American Civil War
156
Abjection and White Trash Autobiography
187
The Professional Southerner and the TwentyFirst Century
205
Contributors
225
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About the author (2013)

Jason Phillips, an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University, is the author of Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility.