What is southern literature?

What is Southern literature? My earlier post about the re-launch of Oxford American generated a question from Laura about (and I’m paraphrasing here) “what is Southern literature”? Actually, here is how she posed the question:

What makes it Southern? Is it the place itself? The physicality of existing in the South? Something about being tied to the land? Is it something about the pace of life that is different? Or is it a spirit, a state of being?

So, as a public service to Laura and students everywhere who in the future may enter the right combination of words in a google search, here is my answer:

What makes literature Southern?
by Rex Hammock

To be Southern, literature must be about “the land” and death and food and race and black and white rural people who have some conflict with modernity and each other, except when they’re working together against modernity. It must reference country music and dysfunctional men and women tailgating at a football game. It’s also gothic, but I don’t think that’s got anything to do with architecture. It’s about the Pentecostal church, unless it is set in Louisiana, and then it’s about the Catholic church. It’s about the way women form ageless bonds or carry-on generational feuds. It has to be depressing, except when it’s funny, but it can be depressingly funny also. Mainly, it’s depressing because of some drunk, sadistic father or grandfather, who abuses a son who grows up to become the town florist and devotes his life to recording the history of the Moon Pie.

Some people think William Faulkner is the definition of Southern literature. As for me, I’m more in the Fanny Flagg camp.

I hope this helps.