29 April 2013

Twentieth Century Southern Literature...so many choices but not so many weeks.

I'm putting together a syllabus for 20th Century Southern Literature. I've never been immersed in a heavily concentrated bath of southern angst, depression, and morbid obsession with family honor, but I've read my share of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, so I think I have a decent basis on that end of the spectrum.

Since I'm not allowed to make the course 100% Faulkner, I've been tossing the following around in my head:

1. William Faulkner, Light in August OR Absalom, Absalom!
  • Light in August is more accessible than Absalom, Absalom!, but I get such enjoyment out of the latter book that it might make the blank stares worth it. On the other hand, Reverend Hightower's habits and commentary is absolutely priceless.
2. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Contemporaneous with Faulkner and an interesting counterpoint to his world, this text is so beautifully written I'd like to include it on most all my syllabi. I have better luck with this work than with Jonah's Gourd Vine.
3. Flannery O'Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • I like throwing in a collection of short stories, because that allows me to get more mileage out of the textbook -- we can work on O'Connor over a few classes.
4. Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
  • You can't really have a Southern Lit class without some Tennessee Williams, and I also find that students don't encounter plays very often (unless they're reading Shakespeare or studying the Restoration Era).
5. Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • Much like Faulkner and Hurston provide a good contrast, so too do Percy and Williams. The New Orleans of Williams simply oozes sex, whereas Percy's maintains restraint.
6. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
  • Outside of Chuck Palahniuk, no contemporary writer does bizarre so compellingly as McCarthy, but that's about all the two writers have in common.

The list isn't complete, but these are the definite starters. I'm looking for a few more books to fill out the schedule, and I'm looking hardest right now at Alice Walker, contemplating Robert Penn Warren, and putting some outside money on John Kennedy Toole (just to keep up the New Orleans theme, which, by the way, is also another argument for Absalom, Absalom!). Hell, maybe I'll do both of those Faulkner novels.

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