This is the first study of orality as a deterministic factor in the shaping of the American South's literary and cultural identity. The literary distinctiveness of the American South has been an object of much scholarly discussion. Although oratory and folklore are often cited as influences on the unique character of Southern literature, no scholar in the field has yet explored orality as a possibly deterministic factor in the shaping of the region's literary and cultural identity.This study makes use of the extensive research available on the differences between oral and literate thought and expression in order to argue that practically every distinguishing factor of Southern literature may be traced the region's oral orientation. To this end, empirical findings on identifiably oral linguistic strategies, narrative structures, and epistemologies are fruitfully synthesized with analyses of works by Southern authors, including James Weldon Johnson, Eudira Welty, William Gilmore Simms, William Faulkner, Donald Davidson, and Zora Neale Hurston. These discussions provide not only a new theory of Southern exceptionalism, but also a new theoretical framework for reading Southern texts.
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd