The American Southern Identity in Literature Analysis


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The literature of the American South has never been one of arbitrary and convenient geographic classification. Residents of what now constitutes the states south from Virginia and Maryland to Florida and west to Louisiana—despite diversity in peoples and terrain—have long identified themselves as a distinct civic and cultural group. The literature of this region possesses unique qualities and a full consciousness of its own uniqueness. Not surprisingly, whatever else may be the subject, a governing concern of Southern literature is with identity, the identity of the individual as a Southerner and the identity of Southerners—black and white, rich and poor, urban and rural—as a group and as a culture. Even stylistically, Southern literature has a distinct identity. It is typically romantic and frequently grotesque, a quality which has come to be called Southern gothic. The gothic quality is distributed across genres, including the folktale, the romance, the history, the drama, and the agrarian fable.