"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."
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.
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