The mission statement of The Southern Literary Journal is to publish “articles on the literature and culture of the American South and especially encourages global and hemispheric comparative scholarship linking the American South and its literatures and cultures to other Souths." This issue features both articles and reviews that present fresh and compelling ideas to the strong body of comparative scholarship that already exists on the literature and culture of the American South. Articles range from analyzing Gone with the Wind to the trauma of lost sovereignty within the South to the analyzing of Ellison’s Invisible Man as a “public jazz dance” in which each individual chapter on a grand scale represents the movements of syncopated communities.
Christina Henderson’s “A Nation of the Continual Present: Timrod, Tennyson, and the Memorialization of the Confederacy” discusses Timrod’s direct role and Tennyson’s indirect role in “articulating southern identity during and after the civil war.” The article makes sure to back up claims with plenty of proof, and Henderson makes sure to walk the reader through her thought process. The history that goes along with the argument is also presented in an engaging way. Henderson centers her argument on the idea that Tennyson’s re-imagined use of the mythological Camelot in his own work was what sparked Timrod’s similar use of Camelot where Camelot is the American South. Regardless of whether a reader has any background knowledge of any aspect Henderson is talking about, the article is easy to follow and well worth a read.
“Gone with the Wind and the Trauma of Lost Sovereignty” by Erin Shelly exhibits strong writing skills. The thesis is not only solidly constructed and clearly stated but it also is well defended. Shelly discusses how the loss of sovereignty in the American South during Reconstruction is displayed in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and how it marked a transition from the loss as an individual trauma to an externalized and collective trauma. Shelly examines the main characters in Gone with the Wind as representations of “history becoming . . . the collective record of private American families.” This article is beneficial for anyone looking to explore a new lens of race and gender issues or looking to understand the idea of sovereignty within the contemporary world in general.
One more worthwhile piece is “Syncopated Communities: Dancing with Ellison” by Joshua Hall. In this piece, Hall affirms two widely acknowledged tropes in Ellison’s thought and works and then intertwines them. The two tropes he discusses are the novel as a function of the American democracy and the other being bebop-era jam sessions serving as a figurative condensation of democracy. One of the most interesting sections of this essay comes as Hall analyzes The Invisible Man as a kind of “public jazz dance” in which each chapter represents a different song and has its own corresponding dance with its own primary characters or “dance soloists.” The various movements of these individual characters are then analyzed next to the movements of communities as a whole or individuals within a community. This essay is well thought out and presented in a clear, comprehendible manner. As a reader, make sure not to skip over this one!
This issue of The Southern Literary Review is a fine vessel of comparative scholarship with something in it for everyone. I promise whether you are a historian or a creative writer—or you fit somewhere in between—there is something worthwhile in this issue for you.