Southern Gothic is a genre of literature given to the literary pieces taking their theme from the American South. The South States, as you know, were the ones who were in favor of slavery and where most slave-intensive labor were due to the huge cotton and sugar cane plantations. These are foremost Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Thus, the horrors of slavery were mainly linked with these states known for their outrageous treatment of slaves. As most of these slaves came from Africa, they brought with them their religions and cultures which they took refuge against the everyday horrors and this way the African religions, spells and voodoo tradition became a part of the slavery narrative of the South. This way with these Gothic elements a new Genre of Southern Gothic was born.
However, not all Southern Gothic literature is about slavery. The South States have a haunted legacy and some authors prefers to draw on the effect of it on everyday life. The scenery they use is generally a small town in the middle of vast barren lands, common people with doubts and hostility towards each other and elements of evil either in the form of criminal or supernatural.
Some of the foremost representatives of Southern Gothic genre you can find in the list below and in our library 😉
It is totally unfair to reduce such a great author, poet and essayist here in just a single list item, but she is someone you must read. She generally draws the theme of her books from slavery and they take place in the past but in some novels, she elaborates on racial discrimination in a more recent context. Her most famous and must read novels are “The Bluest Eye” (was banned in some parts of U.S.), “Beloved” (you can find a student review here in this blog), “The Song of Solomon” (said to be one of the favorites of President Obama) and “Sula”.
Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
“It’s gonna hurt, now,” said Amy. “anything dead coming back to life hurts.”
Freedom as we know today is quite different from what Toni Morrison’s people knew back then. It was a loaded word, weighted down by the bodies and souls of many fought for it and knew that it was the difference between life and death.
Today, we claim to know what slavery was but Toni Morrison in her cult novel Beloved shows us that we can’t even be close to grasp that horror. Our understanding is only limited to the physical torture, the objectification, the deprivation of a human subject from its humanity. What the survivors understood from it was killing the life away slowly, taking away the desire to live, the right to love from themselves, just as their perpetrators wished them to do.
Beloved, based on a true incidence, tells the story of a mother and the daughter she killed to be able to save from the horrors of slavery. The author keeps posing us through the novel the unanswerable question of whether she was right? Every single character faces its own story, its own prying open of their tobacco tin box and their pretence falls away in the face of this moral dilemma- is living without a life better than the actual death.
Toni Morrison deals with these themes of humanity in the face of slavery, the contrast between life and death, the concept of freedom and the legacy of slavery. With her poetic style she embeds the horrors of the past in the daily lives of survivors to show in a way full of emotions how the past still haunts them. The return of Beloved is the symbol representing that past and the novel is one of the greatest examples of the genre Southern Gothic.
To understand the horrors of history and to have empathy and compassion towards those who suffered and suffers even today, looking through their perspective is crucial. What better way than through literature to put ourselves in their place and relive their tragedy together with them?
Well, you know Faulkner. My recommendations are “As I Lay Dying”, “Absalom Absalom!” and “Sanctuary” (one of the least known and probably the most brutal novel of Faulkner not a masterpiece but quite fits in the genre.)
Her short stories are quite famous in this genre. You can find them in the Collection of her Stories. “Wise Blood” again is great novel which combines the elements of faith, false prophets and redemption in the same grotesque Southern setting.
You probably know about “To Kill the Mockingbird”. She, like Toni Morrison, draws on racial themes.
“Cold Blood” is one of the greatest crime novels ever written in American literature.
He is an acknowledged playwright. His best works are “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Sweet Bird of Youth”.
“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is his most renown work.
She is the author of “Gone Girl”, “Dark Places and Sharp objects” all of which is adapted to screen.
His best known works are “Blood Meridian” (was on Time’s 100 best English novels list), “The Pretty Horses”, “The Road and Child of God”. He is also a screenwriter and has written the screenplay for “No Country for Old Man”.
If you are looking for something cheesier to read, well Anne Rice offers you the world of vampires. And if you are wondering how does this name sound familiar, then it suffices to say that she is the author of the “Interview with a Vampire” (yes, the one that Tom Cruise played the vampire).
You’ll hear from me again, soon.