A study of how literary strategies illuminate the evangelical underpinnings of Southern culture.
In Southern Strategies: Narrative Negotiation in an Evangelical Region, Michael Odom argues that through the narrative strategies of resistance, satire, and negotiation, a multigenerational group of twentieth-century white Southern writers provide unique insight into the central role evangelical religion has played in shaping the sociopolitical culture of the American South. Odom investigates how, in landmark works of nonfiction published in the 1940s, W. J. Cash and Lillian Smith confront both the racist culture of their time and the religious institutions that enabled white supremacy to flourish; in novels from the 1950s and '60s, insider-outsider Catholic writers Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy satirize American consumption and the antithetical imperative of evangelical Christianity subsumed within the same culture; and, in 1990s works of fiction and nonfiction, Doris Betts and Dennis Covington engage evangelical religion with curiosity and compassion, redefining spirituality with the aim of providing a sense of community, vision, and selfhood. Southern Strategies concludes with an analysis of contemporary responses to the evangelical activism that animates the base of American conservatism today.
Michael Odom is associate professor of English at CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College. He has been published in scholarly journals such as South Atlantic Review, Southern Literary Journal, and Flannery O'Connor Review.