Even though the region known as Dixie has lost much of its distinctiveness during what some have called the homogenization of the South, its life and literature continue to command attention. And individual Southerners continue to stand out for their integrity and individualism, for their downright cantankerousness and refusal to conform. This abiding interest in the South is reflected in the four articles gathered under the rubric, “A Southern Sampler,” in this issue of VQR.
In “Politics and Literature: The Southern Case,” Richard H. King contends that whatever else Southern writers of the literary “renaissance” were “preoccupied with, politics was not among them.” A professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham, Mr. King is a native of Tennessee who received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. He later received a doctorate in history from the University of Virginia in 1971. He is the author of The Party of Eros, as well as A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the American South, A Study of Southern Intellectuals, published in 1980.
In “A Southerner Confronting the South,” Leslie W. Dunbar discusses the life of Southern writer, civil rights activist, individualist, and non-conformist, Lillian Smith, whom he describes as “that good and brilliant person, that person of boundless hopes and dissatisfaction.” Mr. Dunbar came to know Lillian Smith while serving as executive director of the Southern Regional Council, the South’s oldest biracial organization, during the turbulent years of the civil rights movement. He later moved from Atlanta to New York, where he served as executive director of the Field Foundation.
In “Flannery O’Connor and the Art of the Holy,” Arthur F. Kinney examines the relationship between the writing of Georgian Flannery O’Connor and her firm Catholic faith. Her “unshakable beliefs led her to write imperishable works,” Mr. Kinney comments. “From the beginning she was sure of her talent, confident of her ideas.” Mr. Kinney is the author of Flannery O’Connor’s Library: Resources of Being, which was published in 1984.
In “The Man Who Said No,” Nancy Huddleston Packer recounts the life and controversial career of her father, George Huddleston, As the candidate of the steelworkers, the coalminers, and the farmers, he was elected to Congress in 1915 from Birmingham, Alabama, and he served from the Wilson era to the New Deal, finally being defeated in 1936. Herself born in Washington in 1925, Nancy Huddleston Packer grew up in Birmingham, received an A.B. degree from Birmingham Southern College in 1945, and an M.A. in theology from the University of Chicago in 1947. She is a professor of English at Stanford University, teaching mostly creative writing but some literature.
James Gordon Bennett is a member of the English department at Louisiana State University. He is at work on a novel about Army brats, the subject of his VQR story, “Dependents,” which was published in the Winter 1986 issue and later selected for New Stories from the South: The Best of 1987. His stories have appeared in the Southern Review and other journals.
In his second “Poetry Chronicle,” Peter Harris examines new work by poets Ellen Bryant Voigt, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, and Heather McHugh. Mr. Harris is an associate professor of English at Colby College in Maine and a Melville scholar. A poet himself, he is a recent M.F.A. graduate of the Warren Wilson College Program in Writing.
Debra Nystrom was the second place winner of the 1987 Virginia Prizes for Literature, one of the largest literary awards in the country, the first prize of $10,000 having been won by her husband, the poet Michael Ryan. Ms. Nystrom took second place for her poetry collection A Quarter Turn. Her poems have appeared in such publications as American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and Ploughshares.
Ira Sadoff teaches at Colby College in Maine. His VQR poem, “Emotional Traffic,” is the title poem from his new collection which will be published this year by David Godine.
Robert Schultz is a member of the English faculty at Luther College in Iowa, which he attended as an undergraduate. He later received his Ph. D. degree from Cornell. Mr. Schultz recently completed his first full-length book of poems, A Magnitude of the Possible.
Mark Halliday is a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. His first collection of poems, Little Star, was chosen by Heather McHugh for the National Poetry Series and printed by Morrow last year.
Beckian Fritz Goldberg lives in Phoenix, Arizona and has recently published poems in the American Poetry Review, Quarterly West, and Poetry North-west.
Stuart Downs is director of the Sawhill Art Gallery at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Ken Dola lives and works now in Alaska as a logger and repairer of cabins, and trail builder for the Forestry Service, after having worked as a horse team driver on a ranch in Southeastern Oregon.
Mark Swanson received his M. F. A. from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and lives in Clayton, Georgia.
Peter Meinke is a poet and fiction writer whose latest book of poetry is Night Watch on the Chesapeake (Pitt Poetry Series). His collection of stories, The Piano Tuner, won the Flannery O’Connor Award in 1986 and also the Southern Review/LSU Award. He is the director of the Writing Workshop at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, and in 1987 was the James Thurber Writer-in-Residence in Columbus, Ohio.
It was 50 years ago last month, in March 1938, that Adolph Hitler marched into Austria. At the same time, a young American couple who had resided in Freiburg, a university town at the foot of the Black Forest, since 1935, left Germany in, what a friend had whispered, “the nick of time. They think you are spies.” The young couple were Howard and Mildred Raynolds Trivers, and Mrs. Trivers recounts her experiences of living in Nazi Germany as Hitler consolidated his power. Mr. Trivers later entered the Foreign Service, and the Trivers’ posts included Copenhagen, Zurich, and Berlin, where the Trivers were stationed when the wall went up in 1961.
A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Anne Whitney Pierce is the author of “No Spring Chicken,” a story published by this journal in 1987, and “Luke,” a story which appeared in an anthology entitled Killick Stones: A New Collection of Maine Island Writing, published last summer. She is the mother of two daughters, Natasha, 2, and Anna, 1 year-old this month.
Arthur D. Casciato is an assistant professor of English at Miami University of Ohio and one of the senior editors of the Pennsylvania Dreiser Edition. He is currently editing Dreiser’s European diaries and writing a history of the League of American Writers, a cultural organization that flourished during the 1930’s.
Sanford Pinsker is a professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College where he has been a member of the faculty for the past two decades. He is writing a critical study of Irving Howe and co-editing (for Garland Publishing) an Encyclopedia of Jewish American History and Culture.
Robert J. Brugger served as an editor for the Papers of James Madison at the University of Virginia. He is now editor of the Maryland Historical Review, and his one-volume history of Maryland from its founding to the modern period will be published by Johns Hopkins later this year.
David Lamb, who covered Africa for eight years for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of The Africans and The Arabs: Journeys beyond the Mirage. He is now on the Times staff in Los Angeles.
Vincent Fitzpatrick compiled H.L.M.: The Mencken Bibliography and is assistant curator of the Mencken Collection at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. The recipient of a Ph. D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he is currently writing a book on Mencken for the Ungar Publishing Company.
J. C. A. Stagg is the Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of James Madison, and associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Mr. Madison’s War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783—1830, published by Princeton in 1983.
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