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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