Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

John Muckelbauer


Within Southern studies scholarship, much has been said (or told) about "the South" and southern distinction or essentialism. No one can define what, exactly, the South or southernness is, but we are determined to spend much energy and ink writing about it, anyway. Since the late 20th century, southern studies scholarship has largely followed a discourse-focused trajectory, and the popular (or at least the loudest) answers to questions about the South's distinction have often been angry “nos,” critical rejections of a "special" South that functions—or even exists—outside of discourse. Though this line of inquiry is well-intentioned, it has done little but divide southern studies scholars into two sects: southern literary studies, which considers the South and its literature a distinct culture worthy of critical attention, and the new southern studies, a group that believes southernness is nothing but an ugly fantasy. The new visioning of the South that this project aims to produce, one that takes seriously both the material and the discursive, will disrupt the cycle in which Southern studies has found itself by offering an alternative middle ground that maintains the South’s distinction without falling victim to essentialist folly.