A Web of Words

The Great Dialogue of Southern Literature

Title Details

Pages: 296

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 12/01/2007

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3005-1

List Price: $46.95

A Web of Words

The Great Dialogue of Southern Literature

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Richard Gray is known as both a leading European scholar in American literature and a leading international scholar of the literature of the American South. Through numerous examples drawn from southern literature, a historically conscious body of writing clearly in conversation with itself, Gray helps us to understand how any literary tradition involves an open conversation between its texts-a web of words that stretches from the local to the transnational.

To read a southern story, poem, or play, Gray says, is to access a multitude of texts: surrounding, indwelling, echoing voices that exist within, and because of, a confluence of other voices. Gray first brings this idea alive by mapping the rhetoric of defeat across southern texts, with particular focus on those about the war in Vietnam. He then turns to another persistent topic in the great dialogue of southern literature: agrarianism and its viability as an alternative to globalism. Finally, Gray charts three different intertextual practices involving writings both within and outside the South. One involves a transatlantic dialogue between the fiction of Eudora Welty and European folktale; one a conversation between the indisputably southern William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, whose regional ties are more fluid and equivocal; and one the transnational dialogue on immigration and the changing ethnic makeup of the South.

By talking, and listening, to many other writers, inside and outside the region, southern writers turn the intertextual space of their literature into a border territory. Their texts come to exist in an endless dialogue in which meaning is constantly being repositioned and redefined.

Gray's marvelous study of what he calls 'the great dialogue of Southern literature'-the conversations that Southern texts have with other texts, Southern and otherwise-is perhaps the best book ever written on Southern literature. It's absolutely breathtaking, as wise as it is exciting, as penetrating as it is sweeping. I have no doubt that it is destined to stand alongside the best works of literary study, not merely of the literature of the South but of the literature of any period. It is flat-out stunning.

—Robert Brinkmeyer, author of Revolt of the Provinces: The Regionalist Movement in America, 1920—1945

Richard Gray is writing at the top of his game, moving fluidly between the large picture of Southern writing and innumerable smaller ones. Addressing himself to the reciprocities between Southern literary history and the individual writers who make up that history, he has wonderful things to say about their interactions and their conversations with each other, their peers, and their forebears. This is a book for beginners and for seasoned veterans of Southern literary study.

—Noel Polk, editor of Mississippi Quarterly

One of the leading figures in the field, Gray demonstrates an extraordinary facility with ideas and language and in an idiosyncratic approach to southern literary works from colonial Virginia to contemporary Vietnamese-American Lousiana. . . . Surprising and stunning.

Virginia Quarterly Review

About the Author/Editor

RICHARD GRAY is Professor of Literature at the University of Essex and the first specialist in American literature to be elected a Fellow of the British Academy. The author or editor of more than fifteen books, he is currently co-organizing a major international, collaborative research project, Transatlantic Exchanges: The South in Europe-Europe in the American South.