Shelby Foote Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Shelby Foote began his writing career with poetry, publishing a number of poems in his high school newspaper as well as in The Oxford Magazine, an independent periodical published in Oxford, Mississippi. Foote later admitted, however, that he was more attracted to prose than to poetry and that he found prose rhythms more interesting than poetic rhythms; consequently, he abandoned poetry for prose writing.

Foote also wrote a number of short stories; all of his early stories appeared in The Carolina Magazine, the University of North Carolina’s literary magazine, including such titles as “The Good Pilgrim: A Fury Is Calmed,” “The Old Man That Sold Peanuts in New Orleans,” “The Village Killers,” “The Primrose Hill,” and “Bristol’s Gargoyle.” Saturday Evening Post published “Flood Burial,” which eventually became an incident in Foote’s novel Tournament; Saturday Evening Post also published “Tell Them Good-By,” a shorter version of a story that was eventually titled “Ride Out.” Portions of Shiloh appeared in Blue Book Magazine and in Esquire. In 1957, Foote edited a book of short stories titled The Night Before Chancellorsville, and Other Civil War Stories, which included a legitimate shorter version of Foote’s “Pillar of Fire.” Because he favored the novel over the short story, however, he abandoned the latter form.

As writer-in-residence at the...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Perhaps Shelby Foote’s most notable achievement is that he won great distinction both as a novelist and as a historian. In recognition of Foote’s talent and dedication to literature, special issues of the Mississippi Quarterly (1971) and Delta (1977), a French publication, were devoted entirely to his works.

The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation granted Foote a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957, 1959, and 1960, and in his “Bibliographical Note” to the second volume of The Civil War, Foote thanked the foundation for the extended fellowship, which “made possible the buying of books and bread.” In 1963, he was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant, and in 1994, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carter, Michael. Conversations with Shelby Foote. Oxford: University Press of Mississippi, 1989. Series of interviews with Foote on a variety of topics, including the Civil War, Walker Percy, and writing.

Foote, Shelby. “‘Live’ with The American Enterprise.” The American Enterprise, January, 2001, 1-13. Long interview with Foote that discusses his military service, the origins of his Civil War trilogy, and views on race relations.

Green, Michelle. “The Civil War Finds a Homer in Writer Shelby Foote.” People, October 15, 1990, 60-62. A short biography of Foote that also describes the effect of the Ken Burns miniseries The Civil War on Foote’s popularity.

Panabaker, James. Shelby Foote and the Art of History: Two Gates to the City. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004. Critical analysis of Foote’s oeuvre, with a focus on Foote as both novelist and historian. Includes index and bibliography.

Phillips, Robert L., Jr. Shelby Foote: Novelist and Historian. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. Literary analyses of Foote’s works; also describes how he used novelistic techniques in creation of his Civil War trilogy.

Rubin, Louis D., ed. The History of Southern Literature. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. This comprehensive literary history of the South contains a brief chapter on Foote by Robert L. Phillips providing short summaries of his novels starting with Tournament, set in the month and year that Arkansas governor Orval Faubus attempted to stop integration of the Little Rock Central High School by standing in the doorway.

Tolson, Jay. Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Biography of Percy that chronicles Foote’s friendship with Percy and provides biographical information on Foote.

White, Helen, and Redding S. Sugg, Jr. Shelby Foote. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Full-length study of Foote as both a literary figure and a historian. Begins with a history of the Mississippi Delta, Foote’s country “with its rich soil that created a wealthy plantation class” and “increased Southern intransigency” in the years preceding the Civil War. While largely descriptive in its concept, this book does provide analytical and critical insights. A chronology and helpful bibliography are attached.