Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Tara Powell


Given the continued success of a Southern folk music tradition that makes it a priority to maintain its distinctive regional and historical markings in the postmodern world, the music itself presents interesting possibilities for the evolving conceptions of Southern identity, particularly in in the way music is privileged in its representation of an older, more regionally distinct time without the need for concrete connections to time or place. James Dickey'sDeliverance (1970), a novel with crises of identity at its heart, effectively presents the nuances of how music as a cultural signifier with exceptional abilities functions in contemporary Southern culture. The novel's subsequent adaptation into film by director John Boorman not only illustrated the power of the music in presenting ideas about the American South, it also contributed an understanding of the music to the popular culture lexicon that cemented its importance to regional identity.

The novel and film's prominence in tackling the nature of both Southern identity and Southern folk music in the contemporary world make it a valuable platform for drawing larger conclusions about the possibilities that the music presents, although it would not be until the phenomenal success of O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) and its Grammy-winning soundtrack, where again music serves as a powerful purveyor of identity in stark contrast to the other elements of the story and adds to its meaning in the popular lexicon, that the music's role in the contemporary American South is crystallized.


© 2011, Kyle Petersen