22
Dec 17

Looking Across Vast American Spaces: Bryan Giemza and Maria Hebert-Leiter in Conversation

Recently, Bryan Giemza and Maria Hebert-Leiter shared with us what inspired them to write Images of Depression-Era Louisiana. Here is an excerpt of their conversation.


Bryan: The origin story of Images of Depression-Era Louisiana: The FSA Photographs of Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott begins in another book, actually. I was writing a new introduction to E.P. O’Donnell’s Depression-era novel, The Great Big Doorstep. It’s a minor classic of humor writing, set in Plaquemines Parish, and Eudora Welty was very fond of it.  I wanted to show what the place looked like, and turned up a series of contemporaneous photos straight out of the novel’s world, right down to the Boothville orange groves that the author lived among!

I had to marvel at my luck. It’s unusual to land on such an exact match. The outer reaches of Plaquemines Parish weren’t exactly a densely populated area in the 1930s—O’Donnell writes about a flotsam-and-jetsam culture of cast-off people on the margins of nature, industry, and the waterways. It was sort of astonishing to find that they had been photographed at all at that time.  There was a variety about the subjects, places, and people that was unusually intimate and arresting.  Naturally I wondered, “Who took these? Where did they come from?”

I wondered if the photos were as striking to others as to me. It didn’t take me long to realize, from the reactions of others, that they were indeed something special.

Maria: I was also amazed when I first viewed the photographs. I was born and raised in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and as soon as I saw them I recognized the subjects captured on film. Even if I didn’t actually know their names, I had seen folks like them before. They are the people of Louisiana—then, now, and always.

So Bryan and I started to unravel the backstory and to literally map the byways and pathways that the photographers took. We had to untangle the Louisiana chapter from the bigger story, because some of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers’ work is well known. For example, Walker Evans worked with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), and Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” is perhaps the most famous of the images in the FSA-OWI collection. Both of them took a few photos on their way through Louisiana, in fact.

But it’s easy to forget that Evans and Lange were just two of the photographers Roy E. Stryker sent across the nation to record the need for and, later, the results of the Resettlement Agency (RA) and the FSA programs between 1935 and 1943. Stryker brought together an amazing group of photographers who not only shot federal programs in action but also documented on film the folkways, traditions, and customs of the areas they visited.

We realized that the three principal photographers that worked Louisiana for the FSA needed to be examined as a set. Images of Depression-Era Louisiana specifically addresses the work of Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott and the incredible photographs they took in the state. The local culture of Louisiana has a texture and variety set apart from other parts of the south and the country, and they had captured some part of it. A series of Russell Lee’s negatives of the 1938 Crowley Rice Festival are preserved, along with Marion Post Wolcott’s images of Spanish muskrat trappers and their families in St. Bernard Parish. And those are but two series among the 4,000 Louisiana negatives still protected by the Library of Congress.

Bryan: My question is, What is like the FSA project today?  Can we imagine similar projects that help us to really see one another, across the vastness of American spaces, divisions, and social classes? Public policy is fundamentally about making choices, and the only way to make informed choices is with good information. In our image-saturated world, we forget that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there were a lot fewer pictures in the 1930s. The FSA photographers rendered invisible people and places suddenly visible. The boldness and vision of it are still inspiring.


To appreciate more thoroughly the FSA-OWI collection, its unprecedented achievement, and the remarkable dedication and vision of Stryker and the photographers, we recommend the following books:

Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly W. Brannan, eds, Documenting America, 1935–1943 (University of California Press, 1988). This book includes a general history of photography at the time, along with suggestions regarding how to read the larger FSA-OWI file. The editors focus on each photographer by choosing significant series they took and discussing these series in more detail, along with including memorable photographs from it. For example, they describe and explain Russell Lee’s photographs of the forced relocation of Japanese Americans in 1942.

Gilles Mora and Beverly W. Brannan, eds. FSA: The American Vision (Abrams, 2006). This book will prove especially useful for readers who want a more general history of the RA, FSA, and OWI. It also includes brief histories of Stryker and the individual photographers, along with some of their memorable photos.

Jack Hurley, Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties (LSU Press, 1972). Hurley’s focus specifically on Stryker allows for a more thorough account of the photographers’ fearless leader and his motivations for creating this unprecedented photographic collection.

Howard Greenfeld, Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life (Random House, 1998). Greenfeld records Shahn’s life from childhood, including his family’s immigration to America, through his RA and FSA years and beyond. This book explains why Shahn, a painter, took photographs that are included in the FSA-OWI collection.

Jack Hurley, Russell Lee, Photographer (Morgan and Morgan, 1978). Hurley provides a more comprehensive biography of Lee, who continued to work with Stryker even after the FSA years.

Paul Hendrickson, Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott. (Knopf, 1992). Hendrickson includes Wolcott’s responses to certain photos since he interviewed her decades after she took them. This book offers interesting insight into her personality and her experiences as a woman photographer at the time.

P. O’Donnell, The Great Big Doorstep, with an introduction by Bryan Giemza and an afterword by Eudora Welty (LSU Press, 2015). This Depression-era comic novel set in Louisiana inspired Images of Depression-Era Louisiana and our more in-depth inquiries into the photographers and the photographs they took of the state during this time.

John H. Scott with Cleo Scott Brown, Witness to the Truth: My Struggle for Human Rights in Louisiana (University of South Carolina Press, 2003). This book is a must read for those interested in how the federal projects affected the Louisiana people as it records an African American’s experience of Separate but Equal policies as they pertained to federal projects in the South during the FSA years.

Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices (1941; Basic Books, 2002).  Edwin Rosskam curated from across the FSA collections the photographs in this collection reflecting black experience in that time and place.  The accompanying text from famed African American writer Richard Wright makes the volume even more memorable.


Bryan Giemza is director of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Libraries. He is the author of Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South.

Originally from Thibodaux, Louisiana, Maria Hebert-Leiter teaches at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke.

Buy Images of Depression-Era Louisiana today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


15
Dec 17

How Memory Alters History: Books on Heroes, Villains, and the American Past

When I heard John McCain invoke Theodore Roosevelt as his “favorite philosopher” during the 2000 Republican presidential primaries, it got me thinking: who else has praised Roosevelt as an inspiration? It turns out that countless politicians from both sides of the aisle summon Theodore Roosevelt as a political lodestar, but so do advertising agencies, artists, comedians, and impersonators. Over the last century, Roosevelt has inspired poets, architects, motion picture producers, theatre directors, and presidential biographers. Each representation of Roosevelt differs, not only in the actual depiction, but in the remembrance of the past and the rationale for doing so. Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon examines the portrayals of Roosevelt, the agency of memorializers, and the historical contexts that underpin commemoration. What emerges is a complicated portrait of a many-sided former president, created by successive generations of memorializers. Roosevelt’s legacy is not his own; it belongs to us because through the act of remembering the past, we create it.


Merrill D. Peterson’s work on legacy in American history drew me to this study of Roosevelt. His treatment of Jefferson, Lincoln, and John Brown as figures of changing meaning has defined the field. Since Peterson’s groundbreaking work,Roessner, Amber. Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and the Sporting Press in America (LSU Press, 2014). several other historians have illuminated the prism of American history through memory studies of key individuals. Here are five recent works:

Roessner, Amber. Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and the Sporting Press in America (LSU Press, 2014). Memorialization takes place in all walks of life, not least in sports, where athletes become deities or devils to fanatics. The American pastime has its share of characters and Roessner demonstrates how baseball’s sportswriters created public images of the games’ early heroes and villains. Like presidential biographers, Roessner shows the essential subjectivity of writers.

Greenberg, David. Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004). As for the leading books on presidential images, Greenberg’s Nixon’s Shadow ranks as a favorite. Eloquently written, and intensively researched, it depicts the changing portrait of Nixon from California populist to global statesman. What Greenberg adeptly explains is how dependent our modern political system rests on image construction and hero-worship.

Lengel, Edward. Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory (Harper, 2011). While Nixon languishes at the bottom of most rankings of American presidents, Washington usually tops the same lists, yet his legacy has undergone as turbulent a time. Editor of Washington’s Papers Edward Lengel sketches the first president’s legacy and agents of commemoration in Inventing George Washington. From the “marble man” almost unblemished in early biographies, to the efforts of debunkers that knocked the Founder’s greatness, Lengel explains that even the most revered American heroes have their detractors and mythmakers.

Cook, Robert. Troubled Commemoration: The American Civil War Centennial, 1961-1965 (LSU Press, 2011). This book provided some inspiration around anniversaries. His examination of the Civil War centennial in the 1960s, during the ongoing civil rights movement, demonstrates the power of the present on the historical past.

Carwardine, Richard and Jay Sexton. Global Lincoln (Oxford University Press, 2011). Finally, American history exists in a wider, global context and the essays in Global Lincoln show the rail-splitter from an international perspective. In the twentieth century, Lincoln had meaning for Latin Americans, Russians, and Irish people, reminding us that American narratives of leadership go far beyond its own shores.


Michael Patrick Cullinane is a reader in modern U.S. history at Roehampton University, London, and the author of Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism, 1898–1909, and coauthor of The Open Door Era: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century.

Buy Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


08
Dec 17

Another Kind of Fiction: Ed Falco and Wolf Moon Blood Moon

Wolf Moon Blood Moon is a debut poetry collection, but I’ve been reading and writing poetry since I was a teenager. It wasn’t until grad school at Syracuse University, in my mid- to late- twenties, when I came under the influence of the writer George P. Elliott, that I fell deeply in love with the short story and started focusing most of my writing energy on fiction. Even during those years, I wrote very short stories—pieces ranging from a paragraph to a few pages—and much of that work was published in literary journals as prose poems. For a long time, I thought of fiction as writing that emphasized characters living through, and usually being changed by, a significant moment or event or series of events in their lives; and I thought of poetry as writing that emphasized the use and arrangement of language in patterns of meaning, with the focus on language and meaning rather than on character and event. I still find that largely true, but these days I’ve come to think of all writing as one kind of fiction or another.

For me, the act of writing is always an act of invention shaped by a set of constraints, is a daily meditation, a way of thinking about my relationship to the world. Always, I’m trying to say something that’s true by listening to what I’m writing as I’m writing, by discovering the direction of the writing and being directed by my discoveries. And when things are going well, this seems to come from someplace below the level of consciousness. That’s the great pleasure of writing, the immersion in that creative space. Truth in that space, for me at least, is never the truth of what actually happened, but rather the truth that evolves out of the relationship between invention and design. A play has one kind of design (or set of constraints), poetry another, short fiction another, the novel another, etc., and each genre, each form, leads to a different kind of dreaming and another kind of fiction. Poetry is an especially intense kind of dreaming, which is why I read it with exponentially greater regularity than I attempt writing it.

I have scores of favorite poets and favorite poems, and I read them first of all for the experience I find in the reading, and second for what I can learn from them about how to write. The great poets are, of course, also the great teachers. (I don’t know how many times I’ve read and reread Theodore Roethke’s The Lost Son, but I’ve worn out a least a couple of editions.) The list below, however, is made up of ten contemporaries, all of them, with the exceptions of Ai and Claudia Emerson, still living and writing. They’re poets I read because I admire their work, and because I like trying to figure out just how they achieve such powerful effects with such regularity. I’ll highlight one of their books, but in every case the whole body of their work is worth exploring. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room or time to list every contemporary poet I admire, let alone even a smattering of the magnificent voices that still speak to us across the ages, but hopefully this will be a good starting place.


Ai, Sin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1986). A magnificent story teller, Ai’s poems are daring explorations of the complex and often troubling recesses of the self, told through the appropriated voices of others. She’s a poet to read for her riveting dramatic monologues as well as the forthright, powerful, and convincing use of plain, austere language.

Denise Duhamel, Two and Two (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). It’s hard to pick one collection of Duhamel’s to single out for praise, but I’ll go with Two and Two for the stunning 9/11 poem, “Love Which Took Its Symmetry for Granted.”  Duhamel’s mastery of poetic forms, received and invented, is on display in this poem’s weaving of multiple voices into a chaotic narrative that captures the essence of that shocking moment and its effect on the American psyche. Duhamel is a wonder, and this is one of her best collections.

Stephen Dobyns, Black Dog Red Dog (Carnegie Mellon UP, 1990). Another terrific story teller, Dobyns is a writer to read for his use of the long line in poems that straddle the boundary between poetry and prose. With language that is subtly musical and bold, Dobyns’ poems speak with the power of the best, most concise, fiction.

Claudia Emerson, Late Wife (LSU Press, 2005). Late Wife is a book of poems that somehow manages to harness the narrative scope of a novel and the precise, compact language of a sonnet in chronicling the dissolution of a first marriage and start of a second. This is a book I’ve returned to again and again both for its imagery and its insight, for the way it speaks about the personal and makes it universal.

Alice Fulton, The Powers of Congress (Sarabande Books, 2001). Fulton is a magician who writes complex, multifaceted poems that explore a daunting range of subjects in a variety of poetic voices. There seems to be absolutely nothing she can’t do or won’t try. One hardly knows where to start praising the poems or the striking intelligence that informs them. I’m singling out Powers of Congress because it was my introduction to Fulton’s poetry, but since that collection she has continued to produce a body of stunning work. Start anywhere.

Stephen Gibson, Self-Portrait in a Door Length Mirror (University of Arkansas Press, 2017). I haven’t yet encountered a formalist poet more accomplished than Stephen Gibson. In this, his most recent collection, selected by Billy Collins as winner of the Miller Williams Prize, he writes carefully constructed poems of stunned outrage at the violence humanity has always endured and commonly condoned.  The deep interest of Gibson’s poetry through all his collections is the chaos of the human heart; and here, in Self-Portrait in a Door-length Mirror, he writes in full command of his subject and its formal expression.

David Kirby, House on Boulevard St. (LSU Press, 2007). Kirby’s big, inclusive, generous voice is irresistible. I love what the National Book Award committee wrote about Boulevard Street and happily repeat it here: “Digression and punctiliousness, directed movement and lollygagging, bemusement and piercing insight are among the many paradoxical dualities that energize and complicate the locomotion of his informed, capacious consciousness.” I especially like the use of “locomotion” in describing Kirby’s work. His poems often move like a locomotive rumbling across some new territory: you never know what you’ll see next out the window, but on Kirby’s train you can bet it will be entertaining and informative and you won’t be able to turn away.

Sharon Olds, Satan Says (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980). With a frankness that can at times be shocking, Olds explores states both emotional and sexual with great intensity. Her control of language, her magisterial manipulation of the line and image, her powerful figurative language as well as her direct, forthright speech, her skills both narrative and lyric—all are impressive and moving.

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard (Mariner Books, 2007). In Requiem for a Nun, Faulkner wrote his two most commonly quoted sentences: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” He might well have been talking about Natasha Trethewey’s poetry, a body of work that explores the historical and personal in meticulously constructed, deeply affecting poems. These are poems to read for their craft, their power, and their insight into the many ways in which the past clings to the present.

Robert Wrigley, In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (Penguin Books, 1995). Wrigley’s sensual language is often so exact and accurate in its depiction of the natural world that the experience of reading feels visceral. I first read In the Bank of Beautiful Sins more than twenty years ago, but I return to it often to remind myself of the immense power of carefully chosen words to render a story unforgettable.


Ed Falco lives in the mountains of Blacksburg, Virginia. He teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Tech and edits the New River, an online journal of new media writing. A poetry contributor to the Southern Review, he has also published novels, short stories, and plays.

Buy Wolf Moon Blood Moon today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


17
Nov 17

Finding Promise in Poetry

It’s rare that I write a poem that doesn’t in some way draw upon the work I have read by other poets, writers or artists, be they living or dead, famous or lesser known. Throughout the house, small stacks of books and magazines of poetry, essays, art catalogs, fiction and non-fiction, entice me to spend time with them every day.  While reading, I keep a running list of words and phrases that inspire me, spark my interest or look like they might be good source material for one of my own poems.

In my third collection, Promise, the titles of several of my poems owe debts to other writers’ works. For instance, “Housewife as Poet” came about after I read “Poet as Housewife” in a 2009 issue of Poetry magazine written by contemporary Dutch poet Elisabeth Eybers. For another poem title, I borrowed the phrase “The Book of Usable Minutes” from the first line of the poem, “Train Rising Out of the Sea” by late great John Ashbery. After reading the artist Jenny Holzer’s truisms in her “The Living Series” and “Laments,” I re-purposed her words and phrases in two of my poems. As Trent Brown noted in his recent LSU Press Blog post, Tennessee Williams is a vibrant source and my poem “The Kindness of Strangers” lifts its title and other diction from “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It feels often like I’m making word collages as I add layers of text and images that I have discovered through reading others.

Over the years of building my poetry library, my gratitude has increased for the many presses committed to publishing poetry, LSU Press being one of them. In graduate school, I was introduced to the work of Jay Wright in his collected poems Transfigurations (LSU Press, 2000) and continue to be intrigued by his distinctive depictions of the poet in place and time. I have earmarked about half the pages in Liesel Mueller’s Alive Together (LSU Press, 1996) in admiration for her deft ability to describe living lyrically and unabashedly. In Bonneville, from Elixir Press (2007), Liesel’s poet daughter, Jenny Mueller offers poems of introspection in varied landscapes. In Matt Rassmussen’s Black Aperture (LSU Press, 2012) I was jolted from the comfort of my morning reading chair into these bold and tender variations on a sibling’s suicide.


In addition to reading poems in books, magazines and online, I also rely upon anthologies and collections of essays about poetry and art to support the creation of my work and broaden my knowledge and experience. Here are just a few of the many resources I hold dear.

Mary Oliver, Upstream (Penguin, 2016). Encouraging essays about writing and paying attention.

Carl Phillips, The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (Graywolf, 2014). Chock full of compelling reasons to write poetry with emphasis on assertion and resistance.

Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr, American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (Wesleyan, 2002). Excellent revelations about craft and theory from the perspective of ten featured writers.

J.D. McClatchy, editor, Poets on Painters: Essays on the Art of Painting by Twentieth Century Poets (University of California Press, 1989). Intoxicating essays about art from diverse poetic points of view.

Ed Hirsch, How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love With Poetry (Harcourt, Brace 1999). An engaging love to song to poetry in all its forms with an indispensable Glossary.

Molly Peacock, How to Read a Poem . . . and Start a Poetry Circle (Riverhead, 1999). Illuminating lessons on how to look, hear and make poetry part of your life.

Susan Stewart, The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics (University of Chicago Press, 2005). Lucid examinations of the creative process in contemporary art.

Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperPerennial, 1998). Exacting and sensitive accounts revealing the magic, mystery and power of poetry.


Sally Van Doren has published two previous poetry collections with LSU Press: Sex at Noon Taxes (2008) and Possessive (2012). Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, including American Poet, Boulevard, the Cincinnati Review, the New Republic, and the Southern Review. She has taught poetry at the 92nd Street Y in New York and curates the Sunday Poetry Workshops for the St. Louis Poetry Center.

Buy Promise today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


10
Nov 17

Understanding the Televisual South

It’s hard to turn on the television and not think about the U.S. South. From reality shows such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Southern Charm, and Duck Dynasty, to fear-inducing thrillers like The Walking Dead, True Blood, and True Detective, and bingeable shows including Atlanta, Ozark, Queen Sugar, and Dexter, the U.S. South seems to be broadcast everywhere, functioning on the small-screen as a spectacle of fascination, ridicule, danger, and desire.

Even when the South isn’t the central setting of the show, it somehow manages to work its way into the frame. Take, for example, HBO’s latest David Simon and George Pelecanos venture The Deuce, set in Manhattan in the late seventies. Not even five episodes in, and there we are outside a barbeque restaurant on the outskirts of Charlotte as one of the main characters—a prostitute named Darlene—lures an unsuspecting “country cousin” back with her to the city and into the sex-industry of 42nd street. It’s not hard to think of other examples of shows harnessing the South’s signifying powers, often engendering the region in the process—Charlotte as “southern belle” on Sex in the City, or Detective Amanda Rollins’ role as southerner on the long-running Law and Order: SVU. The premise and pleasure of these series emerges in part from their play with foundational myths of southern womanhood and ideas about region in relation to nation.

Yet this “southern programming” is hardly a new phenomenon. From 1960s favorites The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies to the 80s and 90s series Dallas and A Different World and the 2000s teen drama One Tree Hill, the U.S. South has managed to hold on through multiple TV turns. Of course, some of the recent proliferation of the South on television is a result of the numerous tax incentives the industry has received from southern states and cities eager to bring new business into their borders. Regardless of one’s geographical home, there’s a good chance a TV viewer has been watching some version of the South for years—and in turn people in the South have been watching themselves imagined on the small screen.

While recent collections such as Deborah Barker and Katherine McKee’s American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary have stirred interest in visual representations of the region, the role of television, we noticed, was largely neglected, despite a proliferation of programming set in and about the South. Our work in Small-Screen Souths: Region, Identity, and the Cultural Politics of Television seeks to fill in this gap and to raise meaningful questions about what it means to watch the South across the domestic intimacy and public ubiquity of the televisual medium. As the first book-length study broadly dedicated to the relationship between television and the U.S. South, our collection considers the region and its televisual archive from the classical network era to our contemporary “post-broadcast” era, focusing on how the televisual South speaks to national and transnational transformations, including changing ways of thinking about race, class, gender, and regional identity itself.

We worked consciously to solicit work from contributors from diverse fields, so as to emphasize the variety of intellectual approaches that are possible at the intersections of television, regionalism, nationalism, and globalization, and to reflect a nuanced vision of place. The result, we think, is an intensely readable and teachable collection of sixteen essays that offer dynamic new ways of thinking about the televisual South.


A few key texts functioned as foundational scholarship for our understanding of the relationship between the U.S. South and mass media in Small-Screen Souths: Region, Identity, and the Cultural Politics of Television.

Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee, American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary (UGA Press, 2011). This book is a key inspiration for our collection: we admire its scope, its readability, and the way in which it persuasively makes the case that that, far from being a marginal or merely regional set of tropes and images, the South has been integral to the development of filmmaking on a national scale. Barker and McKee’s concept of “the southern imaginary,” which they define as “an amorphous and sometimes conflicting collection of images, ideas, attitudes, practices, linguistic accents, histories, and fantasies about a shifting geographic region and time,” was influential for our development of our central concept of the “televisual South.”

Karen L. Cox, Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture (UNC Press, 2013). Cox traces the history of the U.S. South in popular culture from the late nineteenth century through World War II, drawing attention to the establishment of key southern icons—the mammy, the belle, the plantation—in film, popular music, radio, and literature, while emphasizing the connections between regional and national identity.

Allison Graham, Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle (Johns Hopkins UP, 2003). Graham brilliantly surveys the ways in which the media, particularly television and film, presented southerners during the period of the civil rights revolution, with a special emphasis on how films have confronted—or avoided—issues of racism.

Jack T. Kirby, Media-Made Dixie: The South In the American Imagination (UGA Press, 2004). Kirby’s study develops a portrait of how “Dixie” comes into fashion through popular culture from early cinematic sensations such as The Birth of a Nation to the plays and cinematic adaptations of Tennessee Williams to Jimmy Carter’s presidency. While we offer a different portrait of the South and popular culture than Kirby, his book is an early touchstone text in a developing conversation about the interplay between mass culture and regional identity.

Amanda D. Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized (NYU Press, 2007). Lotz persuasively details how the television is not dead in the age of digital media and the “post-network” era; rather, she argues, it is being “revolutionized” by portable viewing devices and digital recording.

Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Duke UP, 2001). Arguing against the ways that television studies has long focused on domestic spaces, McCarthy examines how television is a pervasive phenomenon outside the home, filling our time in airports, sporting events, and waiting rooms. She also discusses the different roles that television plays in these contexts, focusing on how “ambient television” mobilizes us into captive audiences for ideas about gender, class, and consumption.

Tara McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP, 2003). McPherson’s masterful book reinvigorated southern studies through inventively drawing on a diverse archive—fiction, film, television, southern studies scholarship, journalism, music, tourist sites, the internet, and autobiography—to reveal how the “lenticular logic” that has dominated the U.S. South’s remembering of its past has also shaped our national identity.

Scott Romine, The Real South: Southern Narrative in the Age of Cultural Reproduction (LSU Press, 2008). Romine examines what it means to understand the U.S. South in the “age of cultural reproduction,” wherein cultural identity must be understood within the broader context of mass media, global corporations, and the logic of commodification. Romine’s compelling arguments about artifice, authenticity, and “reality” resonate throughout our collection.


Lisa Hinrichsen, associate professor of English and director of graduate studies at the University of Arkansas, is the author of Possessing the Past: Trauma, Imagination, and Memory in Post-Plantation Southern Literature.

Gina Caison is assistant professor of English at Georgia State University.

Stephanie Rountree is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Department of English at Auburn University.

Buy Small-Screen Souths today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


03
Nov 17

Five Howard Chaykin-esque Contemporary Comics

In Neon Visions, I discuss the ways in which Howard Chaykin’s work, once routinely hailed as groundbreaking in its themes and innovative in exploiting the unique properties of the comics medium, has in recent years been underappreciated or mis-understood in academic comics studies and comics fandom alike. But what about within the world of comics artists and writers? How have comic creators both within and beyond the mainstream responded to the work of an artist who expanded the boundaries of the possible in monthly adventure-genre comics? Here are five works indirectly or directly shaped by Chaykin’s influence.


Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon, Casanova (Image Comics, 2006-). Superstar indie comics writer Matt Fraction is an avowed Howard Chaykin fan and a frequent collaborator, most notably on Satellite Sam, an unblinking look at the seamy underbelly of 1950s children’s television that Fraction has frequently described as “Howard Chaykin fan-fiction.” But I tend to think of Casanova as the true spiritual successor to Chaykin titles such as American Flagg! or Time2. With Brazilian artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon trading art duties on alternating story arcs, Casanova is a series in which Fraction transforms a deeply personal and idiosyncratic set of obsessions and preoccupations into a crypto-autobiographical thrill ride.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Fatale (Image Comics, 2012-2014). Brubaker and Phillips have carved out a distinct niche for themselves doing sophisticated crime comics in a marketplace dominated by superheroes, expanding the territory that Chaykin helped to establish with series such as The Shadow and Black Kiss. Like Chaykin, Phillips is clearly an aficionado of classic twentieth century American illustration, and his elegant, moody art calls to mind the work of illustrators such as Robert Maguire or Robert McGinnis. I could have picked just about any of their collaborations for this spot – their anthology series Criminal, their supervillain crime caper Incognito, their blacklist-era Hollywood mystery The Fade Out – but their supernatural noir Fatale seems to owe a clear debt to Black Kiss, picking up its themes of obsession, identity, and the place of women in genre entertainment and taking them in a new direction.

Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov, Fury MAX: My War Gone By (Marvel, 2012-2013). Chaykin’s Blackhawk drew acclaim and controversy for taking DC Comics’ stalwart, square-jawed, and slightly dull World War II aviator and putting him in a carefully researched, richly imagined historical context, eschewing “greatest generation” rhetoric for a nuanced look at the interlocking political forces and ideological fantasies that characterized the immediate pre-war years. Written by Garth Ennis – another sometime Chaykin collaborator, most notably on the WWI flying ace series War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle – and beautifully cartooned by Goran Parlov, My War Gone By makes a similar move with Marvel Comics’ World-War-II-hero-turned-superspy Nick Fury, transporting the character to (somewhat) more realistically imagined post-war hotspots like Vietnam and Cuba for a tale about the follies of American empire. (Side note: Goran Parlov is also the artist for Marvel’s The Punisher: Welcome to the Bayou by Baton Rouge’s own Victor Gischler, a story in which the Punisher dresses up in an LSU tracksuit.)

Ho Che Anderson, King: A Comics Biography (Fantagraphics Books, 1993-2003, 2010). Chaykin is one of Anderson’s oft-cited inspirations, and the evidence is all over his monumental graphic biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. – not only in the clashing patterns and textures and disorienting page layouts that recall Black Kiss and Time2 but also in Anderson’s consideration of both the value and danger of American mythology, in his attention to the place of human failings and foibles in grand political narratives, and in his unsettling depiction of the ways in which mass media shapes our response to and understanding of history.

Michel Fiffe, Copra (2012-). Fiffe’s one-man showcase – long available only through his Etsy store, now available digitally – began as a love letter to titans of 1980s comics such as Chaykin, Frank Miller, and Bill Sienkiewicz, filtered through an affectionate riff on John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s classic Suicide Squad. As the series evolved, however, it became clear that the series was something purely his own, an eye-popping visual delight whose sketch-on-the-back-of-a-notebook energy was the expression of an original and uncontainable vision. Taking secondhand scraps of genre entertainment and making them truly your own – I can’t think of anything more Chaykin-esque than that.


Brannon Costello, associate professor of English at Louisiana State University, is the editor of Howard Chaykin: Conversations and Conversations with Michael Chabon; and, with Qiana J. Whitted, coeditor of Comics and the U.S. South.

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20
Oct 17

Writing Hood’s Texas Brigade: Books on Civil War Soldiers and Families

Over the last fifteen years, historians have increased their focus on the indelible link between Civil War military units and their families and home communities. This connection played a defining role in soldiers’ decisions to volunteer, to continue or abandon their military service, and veterans’ ability to adapt to postwar life. While historians have recognized the influence of regional and cultural traditions, class, and age in shaping enlistment or desertion patterns, it is only recently that scholars have come to appreciate the significance of Civil War units as communities in their own right that reflected the values of the families and towns in which they were raised and to which many of them returned.

As a war and society scholar by training, my research and writing were first influenced by this new approach to Civil War unit histories about ten years ago. Early drafts of my book Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’s Most Celebrated Unit focused on traditional questions of military service: Why did these men volunteer? Why did they continue to serve? What drew them to this unit? What motivated them in combat? What made this such an elite brigade? How did the war change these men? I came to realize, though, that while I was studying the men in battle, in camp, and on campaign, they focused instead on events at home. They worried about their wives managing their farm, the diseases that plagued their children and livestock, and economic devastation that could follow poor crops and worse weather. Texas Brigade soldiers certainly discussed the war and what it meant to them, their families, and their communities. They struggled to describe the horrors of a battlefield and the fear and exhilaration combat inspired. But this was only a part of their wartime experience. To capture the full picture, I realized that I had to study their families and home communities too. Not just their socio-economic backgrounds, but rather the familial and community connections that I saw reflected in their companies, regiments, and brigade. I noticed references to men on neighboring farms in letters home, and how casualty lists often predicted long term economic as well as personal hardships for entire communities. Only by incorporating these issues could I understand the Texas Brigade’s full experience in the Civil War.


Seeking the help of other scholars, I turned most often to these books (and sometimes to conversations with manuscripts in progress) while writing Hood’s Texas Brigade:

Ward Hubbs’ Guarding Greensboro: A Confederate Company in the Making of a Southern Community (University of Georgia Press, 2003) and Richard M. Reid’s Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2008). Ward Hubbs and Richard Reid were models of the argument that, when analyzing a Civil War unit, scholars must examine soldiers and their home communities as one entity. Companies and regiments become their own communities, but their families constantly pulled on them, supported them, and inspired them. A volunteer’s civilian roots, Reid and Hubbs remind us, could infect soldiers with petty grievances, but they also offered a much-needed support structure and could inspire a tremendous willingness to sacrifice.

Lesley J. Gordon’s A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2014) examines a unit known during the war for their failures rather than their successes. But through the veterans’ and their families’ efforts to reclaim their honor and redefine their service, a broken unit became a celebrated regiment.

In Shades of Green: Irish Regiments, American Soldiers, and Local Communities in the Civil War Era (Fordham University Press, 2017), Ryan W. Keating rightly argues that it was connections to soldiers’ home communities, more than their ethnic traditions, that proved their strongest motivating influence.

In General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse (Free Press, 2008), Joseph T. Glatthaar analyzes the socio-economic influences, political connections, and relationships between officers and men that helped make the Army of Northern Virginia so successful but that also sowed the seeds of its defeat.

These works influenced my conclusion that when we study Civil War soldiers’ military service, it’s not just their service that we need to understand. Units raised from neighborhoods and small towns were reflections of their families and the entire community. When regiments were celebrated or castigated in the press or long after the war, so too were the families and communities from which they came. Sweeping studies of Civil War soldier service and motivation like James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades or Kenneth Noe’s Reluctant Rebels were path breaking, but historians are right to now argue that service in specific units and a man’s home community could have just as much influence on a soldier’s wartime behavior than the more commonly studied factors of age and socio-economic background.

In the Texas Brigade, for example, men volunteered to serve over a thousand miles from home despite the fact they could have fought much closer to their homes without dishonor. They returned to their brigade after capture or wounds despite the unusually high casualty rates their regiments suffered, and they made these dangerous decisions when desertion rates in the army overall were rising. The officers and men of the Texas Brigade expected much from each other and gave much to each other, they came from families who were able to sustain that level of sacrifice. These men returned to communities where the brigade’s veterans and families continued to support one another long after the war ended. They remind us that this new approach to writing unit histories — which examines the interconnected experiences of soldiers, families, and home communities — is essential to more fully understanding the Civil War generation.


Susannah J. Ural, Ph.D. is author of the forthcoming Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’s Most Celebrated Unit with LSU Press. She is professor of history and co-director of the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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13
Oct 17

Writing Girl after Girl after Girl: Women Poets, Permission and Risk

The poet Lucille Clifton once said that with her poetry, “I hope to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” When I wrote the poems in my new book Girl after Girl after Girl, I thought often of Clifton’s words. In fact, I wrote them on an index card and taped it on the wall above my desk.

I love Clifton’s quote because it speaks to both poetry’s intimacy and the work it can do in the world. Here, Lucille Clifton explains most accurately why I both write and read poetry.

In my new book Girl after Girl after Girl, I was writing about being a daughter in the 70s and 80s, about my own daughters, about raising young girls in the dangerous world in which we live. I was writing about female bodies, and the damage the world inflicts upon them. I was afraid of much of what I wrote in my first drafts of poems: stories of addiction, stories of violence, stories of fear and danger.  I kept Clifton’s words close as I worked.

And then one day as I struggled through the poems in my new book, I recalled Emily Dickinson’s famous dictum—“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”  I wrote those words beside Clifton’s above my desk.  To “tell it slant,” as Dickinson suggested, I turned to objects to tell the stories of mothers and daughters and girlhood—I read books of recipes, I visited doll and miniature museums, I studied the history of the breast pump, the cocktail, the mourning dress.

In different ways, Clifton and Dickinson gave me permission to write my poems. And as I read and reread their words and wrote my own poems, I also I remembered my second daughter, and how when she was younger and I left the house to give reading, she would stand at the front door, face pressed to the glass panes, as I closed the door between us, and shout, “Don’t go to poetry!” It was heartbreaking to leave her, but it also struck me that her exhortation also gave me a way to think about poetry.

My daughter was right. Poetry is a place I go. Sometimes it’s a deep, cold river where I sink down in darkness alone. Sometimes it’s a site of solace, more interior, a quiet and safe room, and a reminder that others have felt as I have felt. Sometimes it’s a geographical journey—I travel with Muriel Rukeyser to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia or with CD Wright to Angola Prison. I read poems both to come closer to myself and to enter a whole new world.

Most of all, I read poems that give me permission to take a risk, poems that make me wonder, How did she do that? She is not supposed to be able to do that! I want to learn to do that!

So sometimes, in search of poets who give me permission to take risks, I go out with a poetry book as I would with a new friend. I take a collection of poems out for coffee and spend a few hours with the book. The book and I sit together and I write in my notebook and we talk.

I have taken many books out for coffee, and I look to many women poets as guides to poetry. Here, below are six books of permission and risk that I have taken out for conversation many times, six books that I kept—and keep—on my desk as I wrote my poems in Girl after Girl after Girl, six books that I return to again and again.


Anya Krugovoy Silver, From Nothing (LSU Press, 2016). From Nothing is a book that illustrates to me how poetry takes you both from yourself and back into yourself all at once. These poems document the experience of life-threatening illness and the deep love of a mother for a son; these poems elegize dead and dying friends. And they show us the magical worlds of fairy tales and the rituals of Lent and prayer that sustain us. I love the fearlessness of Silver’s book.

CD Wright, One Big Self (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). CD Wright was my first poetry teacher in college, at Brown University. Two years ago, with time off from teaching, I spent days walking around my town listening to her read from One Big Self (on the Penn Sound Archive) and soaking up the poems in this book. She shows us new worlds—the landscape of southern Louisiana and the lives of prison inmates and their families. CD Wright died suddenly last year, and now I return again and again to the book to remember her.

Lucille Clifton, The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (Boa Editions, 2015). I may be cheating by including a poet’s Collected Poems here, but when it comes to Lucille Clifton I can’t help myself. Clifton’s poems offer, in my mind, the ultimate permission to writing about the things in the world that most compelled me while I wrote the poems in Girl after Girl after Girl and that most compel me now—the female body, mothers and daughters, race and identity, religion and place.

Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry (Paris Press, 1996). Muriel Rukeyser published so much, in so many genres, and her life spanned the twentieth century, but I love this book most. The Life of Poetry is a book that teaches us how to live in and with poetry. Muriel Rukeyser is my favorite poet and most of all my poetry-mother. I teach her poems, I read them nearly every day, and I keep them close to me. As she says in this book, “For the last time here, I wish to say that we will not be saved by poetry. But poetry is the type of the creation in which we may live and which will save us.”

Solmaz Sharif, Look (Graywolf Press, 2016). Often, I can’t separate out what I read from what I teach, and I have taught this amazing book twice in the past year. Look is a collection that makes me think differently about history, language and what poetry can do. Sharif uses a Defense Department Dictionary as a text that splits open and refashions again and again to show the horrors of war, the devastation of the Middle East, and the violence we do to one another’s bodies.

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (City Lights Publishers, 2014). I chose one of the epigraphs to Girl after Girl after Girl from this book, originally published in 1914, because Stein revolutionized the way I think about language. In Tender Buttons, Stein gives us portraits of ordinary things. Coffee. Milk. Beads. Dresses. Every time I read it I wish I could go to a yard sale with Gertrude Stein and talk about objects.  Stein shows us the magic of the things around us that we take for granted.


Nicole Cooley. Credit: Lisa KollbergNicole Cooley is the author of Breach, Milk Dress, The Afflicted Girls, and Resurrection. A native of New Orleans, Cooley directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College–CUNY, where she is a professor of English.

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06
Oct 17

Six Cookbooks that Capture Louisiana’s Unique Flavor

There’s a cornucopia of Louisiana cookbooks out there. Some, like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, the one I co-authored with Melinda Winans, not only have good recipes, but they give the cook an overall idea of what makes the cuisine of south Louisiana so unique.

I’ve been a food writer for the Newcomb College Culinary Writers Group and the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Advocate newspapers, and I’m currently editor of the LSU Press cookbook series “The Southern Table.” I thumb through a lot of cookbooks, and I’m always amazed at how much I learn from those mouthwatering pages. Remarkably, in this digital age, readers still find physical cookbooks entertaining. I, for instance, am the type who’d rather get lost in a cookbook at night instead of a novel. I like turning a page to find someone’s family’s favorite soup, or a new chef’s innovative desserts. There’s also something about a clever recipe title or a heartwarming header that is, well, exciting.

While with the Newcomb group, we were writing a scholarly book on food, and I was instructed to scour that institution’s massive cookbook library for my research. Wow! I was in heaven. At my fingertips were copies of some of the first cookbooks published in Louisiana. From them, I figured out how gumbo evolved over the years, how calves foot jelly was once popular, and that now-hip quenelles, egg-like shapes of forcemeat, were common on nineteenth-century New Orleans tables. All it took was a little detective work, and I had the basis for my work. It was also at this time that I realized that the popular cookbooks of bygone eras had two things in common: their recipes were relatively easy to make, and reading them made you want to rush out to your stove. Both of these distinctions still separate extraordinary cookbooks from the rest.

I met Melinda Winans at an Herb Society meeting in Baton Rouge, and we instantly connected based on one thing—we both love everything about food. Like me, she has an extensive home cookbook library, where there are books she turns to time and time again. Also, her late father-in-law, the internationally famous photographer, Fonville Winans, liked to cook, and he wrote down a mountain of his recipes. One day while browsing through Fonville’s scribbles, we realized we were not only reading a cherished family keepsake, but we had the foundation for an outstanding cookbook.

To make things interesting and to put things in perspective, we made The Fonville Winans Cookbook a compilation of recipes, his photographs, and his biography. He spent most of his youth in Texas, and is most famous for his photographs of the impoverished Depression-era Cajuns who lived on Grand Isle on Louisiana’s coast. During those years, when he was in his early twenties, he became good friends with many of his subjects, and they taught him how to cook what became his favorite cuisine, Cajun.

Fonville later settled in Baton Rouge, where he raised a family, became a sought-after portrait photographer, an inventor, and a pilot. He was also a cook who incessantly experimented. And it is from the many, many versions of his recipes that we get a glimpse of what families were eating in mid-century south Louisiana.Fonville adored both Creole and Cajun food, but his natural curiosity led him to experiment with cuisines such as Mexican and Chinese, creating dishes that were mostly unheard of in the region at the time. His notes tell us that he studied cookbooks, too. He was especially enamored of a book called The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. In our cookbook, we include many of Fonville’s interpretations of what was, for him, exotic fare. These creations give insight into a man who was definitely ahead of his time, and who was often credited with introducing many new dishes to the Baton Rouge mainstream.

This brings us back to the question of what makes a cookbook exceptional. To me and Melinda, any cookbook tells a story. But many, such as the ones listed below, are encyclopedic, not so much for their girth, but for what their recipes tell us. Importantly, they give a broad spectrum of what folks in Louisiana think is good food. Most of those recipes have a history, some that can be traced back hundreds of years. These recipes also work in a home kitchen and, above all, our modern palates think they still taste great. Once you start reading through them, you’ll pick up on recipe titles, ingredients, and cooking techniques that are found nowhere else. Like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, they capture the local food experience, and any meal made from them would put something authentically Louisiana on the table.


Six Cookbooks that Explain Louisiana’s Unique Flavor:

River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine (The Cookbook Marketplace,1950) – This “textbook of Louisiana cooking” was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, and has sold over 1.3 million copies. Recipes were contributed by home cooks and run the gamut from roux to courtbouillon to the now-world-famous Spinach Madeleine.

The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine (Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, 2004) – This is the first of Chef John Folse’s gigantic cookbooks. Along with a healthy dose of culinary history, he includes 700 recipes for cooking traditional south Louisiana cuisine.

Cooking up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (Chronicle Books, 2015) – In 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away many a recipe collection. Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker and food writer Marcelle Bienvenu came to the rescue with this cookbook based on treasured local favorites.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1984) – Chef Paul Prudhomme shook up traditional New Orleans Creole cooking with his down-home, rustic Cajun cooking. This cookbook is classic Cajun.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) – Cynthia LeJeune Nobles turned the food found in John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel into a cookbook that reflects what was popular on tables in New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s, before south Louisiana cooking was all the rage.

Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans (LSU Press, 2016) – Elizabeth Williams, Director of the Southern Beverage Museum, and Chris McMillian, co-founder of Museum of the American Cocktail, teamed up to write a detailed history of New Orleans’s varied cocktails. Authentic recipes are included. If you’re interested in cocktails, this book is a must.


Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, series editor for “The Southern Table” from LSU Press, is the author of A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) and The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat (LSU Press, 2012).

With Melinda Risch Winans, Nobles co-authored The Fonville Winans Cookbook, which was published by LSU Press earlier this week. You can read more about their cookbook in The Advocate and SIBA News. Take 30% off select Louisiana titles, including this one, during the month of October with offer code 04LBF! Buy your copy while it’s still hot off the press by clicking here.

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29
Sep 17

Sexuality and the South: Recommended Reading

Sex and Sexuality in Modern Southern Culture is a collection of twelve essays that seeks to show how fundamentally questions of sexuality have shaped recent southern history. I decided to put this book together because I feel not only that the topic merits close study, but also because it seemed to me that an interdisciplinary approach might encourage new answers to familiar questions. I hope that the book encourages more work on these topics and on the subject generally.

Scholars in a variety of disciplines are producing exciting work on sex and sexualities in the American South. Much of that work sheds new light on long-standing issues, such as race, religion, and the law in the South. The field promises to remain vital and growing, as some of the best scholarship on southern sexualities is currently being produced in graduate programs in history, literature, and gay and lesbian studies.

For anyone interested in reading further in this field, I can recommend several excellent books, although this list could be much longer. I would start by pointing people back to Tennessee Williams, a writer with profound things to say about sexuality and longing, as well as the way those tensions manifest themselves within southerners and their communities.


Here are other books that I admire:

Alecia Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920 (LSU Press, 2004). An outstanding study of sex and commerce, especially the ways in which New Orleans promoted the sex trade.

Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (Yale University Press, 1997). A powerful work of scholarship on a topic that remains of perennial interest to southern scholars.

John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (University of Chicago Press, 1999). A magnificent work of historical reconstruction that drew scholars’ attention to queer lives in the rural South.

Benjamin Wise, William Alexander Percy: The Curious Life of a Mississippi Planter & Sexual Freethinker (UNC Press, 2012). A splendid biography that provides a compelling reading of a memoir that historians have long known, but not in the ways that Wise demonstrates.

Gary Richards, Lovers and Beloveds: Sexual Otherness in Southern Fiction, 1936-1961 (LSU Press, 2005). A provocative reading of same-sex desire in a particularly rich period of southern letters.


Trent Brown, professor of American Studies at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is the editor of Sex and Sexuality in Modern Southern Culture (LSU Press, 2017). He is the author or editor of several other books on southern history, including White Masculinity in the Recent South (LSU Press, 2008), and (with Rev. Ed King) Ed King’s Mississippi: Behind the Scenes of Freedom Summer (University Press of Mississippi, 2014).

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