Shades of the South: Literature

Southern literature frequently alternates between endearing and shocking. Characters can charm readers on one page and commit murder on the next. It may be the allure of juxtaposing Southern hospitality with brutality that causes so much of the region’s literature to end in bloodshed; it may be a reflection of the people who live here, showing that underneath the sweet tea and the barbeque, there’s a hard edge to Southerners, something primal left over from the days when the world was less civilized and life in these lands was a hard, uncertain thing.

There’s a rich history of stories set in the southern half of the United States, with classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being but two entries in the Southern portfolio. Flannery O’Connor famously wrote short stories set in the South that are dark and amusing. The following works of literature are some other examples of what the genre has to offer, written by both new writers and masters of the craft.

As always, this is not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of what Southern fiction has to offer.

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Shades of the South: Film

People often write the South off as a cultureless wasteland, filled with backwoods, folksy nobodies, living life in a world gone by. Those of us who live here, however, know that this judgment isn’t entirely accurate; the South isn’t an irrelevant relic, but a place where the culture of the Old South mingles with modern society and contemporary issues. In fact, some of the greatest works of art in the last 30 years have been inspired by or set in the American South. The result in literature and film is often blood-soaked poetry, where characters must survive in a land filled with breathtaking vistas and the eccentric individuals that the Southern culture of honor breathes life into. Some of these works of art have contemporary settings, while others take place a hundred years ago or more; however, the setting is less important than the work having the feel of the South.