Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr.


This dissertation explores the profound influence that 19th-century Russian authors had on 20th-century Southern writers. Recent analyses of the American South have looked to the fluid nature of this region’s borders, often spreading into the Caribbean, South America, and American West, but there has not yet been any book- length study of the ways in which several Russian literary masters, including Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, and Fyodor Dostoevsky, influenced Southern authors, particularly Ernest Gaines, Eudora Welty, and Richard Wright. In particular, these Southern authors, in interviews and essays, have repeatedly extolled these Russian figures for their elevation of communal folklore, ways of confronting post-war defeat and identity crises, understanding of their own country’s ostracism by surrounding nations and domestic social hierarchies, and the establishment of a national literature. I want to suggest that these Southern authors recognized an analogous existence in these Russians’ works and sought to not only appreciate and extol their writing but to replicate it in their own texts, frequently utilizing the same formal and stylistic conventions. In embracing the templates put forth by their Russian inspirations, these Southerners found a way to understand their own collisions with indignities and ostracism as well as the methods by which culture could be restored and preserved in a respectable, literary tradition.


© 2019, James Preston Edge