Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Making the Southern Canon


A review of Fifty Southern Writers After 1900: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Ed. by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Greenwood Press, 1987.

A few years ago, before I had been sold upriver to Clemson, some colleagues and I were busily devising a graduate reading list for the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. (I had been assigned “American Literature Since World War II.”) When another professor walked into the room and asked what we were doing, I grandly announced: “Making the literary canon.” And, of course, that’s exactly what we were doing. Neither bestseller status nor favorable mention in the literary reviews assures an author of immortality. It is only when he passed into the university curriculum that he belongs to the ages. The fact that writers, like saints, can occasionally be bumped from the canon (a fate shared by Longfellow and Saint Patrick), only proves the awesome power wielded by the church fathers of academia. This is as true of Southern literature as of any other genre.

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