The Countercultural South

Jack Temple Kirby

Class resistance—southern style


"Kirby's love of southern soil and forest and their inhabitants makes The Countercultural South a remarkable, lyrical document."
—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Journal of American History

At once upholding and refuting the South's conservative image, The Countercultural South explores the politically divergent cultures of resistance created by poor white and working-class black southern men. With humor and insight, Jack Temple Kirby traces these racially and politically opposed cultures back to the antebellum encounter between the anti-capitalistic South and the capitalist individualism identified with the North.

In a wide-ranging discussion encompassing the blues, sharecropping, and contemporary black intellectuals, Kirby shows how the needful practice of black labor bargaining in the South resulted in a progressive black tradition of verbal negotiation. The conservative separatism and retro-resistance of rural whites, Kirby argues, is embedded in an inherited and adversarial frontier ethos valuing self-sufficiency and access to wilderness. With the southern landscape imaginatively as well as factually linked to social class, crime--particularly forest arson--becomes the most important form of southern white countercultural expression.

Kirby continues his look at white resistance in a review of "redneck" discourse, examining the public reputation of southern whites through a range of cultural phenomena, from literature to country music to the computer network known as BUBBA-L. Original, personal, and artfully written, The Countercultural South offers fresh reflections on southern exceptionalism in American political life and culture.

Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures

Page count: 128 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 9


List price: $29.95

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Jack Temple Kirby is emeritus W. E. Smith Professor of American History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His most recent books include Working the Garden: American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture and The Countercultural South (Georgia).