The American South is a geographical entity, a historical fact, a place in the imagination, and the homeland of an array of Americans who consider themselves southerners. The region is often shrouded in romance and myth, but its realities are as intriguing, as intricate, as its legends.
The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture is "the first attempt ever" notes U.S. News and World Report, "to describe every aspect of a region's life and thought, the impact of its history and policies, its music and literature, its manners and myths, even the iced tea that washes down its catfish and cornbread."
There are many Souths, many southerners. The region's fundamental uniqueness, in fact, lies in its peculiar combination of cultural traits, a somewhat curious, often elusive blend created by blacks and whites who have lived together for more than 300 years. In telling their stories, the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture ranges from grand historical themes to the whimsical; from the arts and high culture (William Faulkner and Leontyne Price) to folk culture (quilts, banjos, and grits) to popular culture (Gilley's and Gone With the Wind).
The Encyclopedia's definition of the South is a cultural one: the South is found wherever southern culture is found. Although the focus is on the eleven states of the former Confederacy, this volume also encompasses southern outposts in midwestern and middle-Atlantic border states, even the southern pockets of Chicago, Detroit, and Bakersfield.
To foster a deeper understanding of the South's cultural patterns, the editors have organized this reference book around twenty-four thematic sections, including history, religion, folklore, language, art and architecture, recreation, politics, the mythic South, urbanization, literature, music, violence, law, and media. The life experiences of southerners are discussed in sections on black life, ethnic life, and women's life. Throughout, the broad goal is to identify the forces that have supported either the reality or the illusion of the southern way of life—people, places, ideas, institutions, events, symbols, rituals, and values.
The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture was developed by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Contributors to the volume include historians, literary critics, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, linguists, theologians, folklorists, architects, ecologists, lawyers, university presidents, newspaper reporters, magazine writers, and novelists.
Book News Annotation:
Editors Wilson (history, Mississippi) and Ferris (anthropology, Detroit and Bakersfield. Literate, scholarly and pithy entries accompanied by well chosen photographs artfully placed. Far too good a book to be printed on acidic paper; our test contradicts the statement on the verso of the title page. The price is $49.95 until January 1990. Mississippi) have devoted 10 years to the realization of a unique concept. Involving many scholars and writers in many fields, this book ranges from grand historical themes to the whimsical; from the arts and high culture to folk and popular culture, organized around 245 thematic sections such as, history, religion, language, art and architecture, etc. Focuses on the eleven states of the former confederacy, but also encompases southern outposts in midwestern and middle-Atlantic border states, even the southern pockets of Chicago, Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Charles Reagan Wilson, a Texan, is professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 and editor of Religion in the South. William Ferris, a native of Mississippi, is professor of anthropology and director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. He has consulted extensively on a variety of projects and produced numerous films, record albums, and television documentaries in the field of folklore. His books include Blues from the Delta, Local Color, Mississippi Black Folklore, and Afro-American Folk Art and Crafts.
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