This literary genre celebrates our hauntingly beautiful and mysterious region
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Southern Gothic Literature
The Windsor Ruins in Port Gibson, Misissippi
| Credit: Eudora Welty

Abandoned plantation houses, eccentric aunts, and a flair for the dramatic–the more outlandish, the better in the South. it's no coincidence an entire genre was inspired by our quirks, captured as only Southerners can. Southern Gothic, based in literature and still thriving in pop culture, is packed with mystery, eccentricity, and the supernatural. From the shriek of a haunting bird in Virginian Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" to the conniving Louisiana vampires on HBO's True Blood, it's a tradition full of big characters, rooted in the geography of our land. Ghosts don't always take center stage (though they do creep in from time to time). Instead, these works illustrate our character and social issues by evoking an emotional response to the past. "In the Southern Gothic tradition, everything has meaning," says Charles Reagan Wilson, Ph.D., Cook Chair of History and Professor of Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. "The abandoned plantation house isn't there just to be spooky. It represents our fixation with history," he says. Curl up with one of these classics and be transported to a world we love.

  • "A Rose for Emily," 1930 (FromSelected Short Stories of William Faulkner)
  • This classic Faulkner short story is the perfect introduction to the genre, where tradition clashes with change.
  • Memorable Quote: "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town."
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  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940 (Carson McCullers)
  • This novel tells the story of a group of Depression-era townspeople, each searching for relief from their deepest burdens.
  • Memorable Quote: "And how can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?"
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  • The Robber Bridegroom1942 (Eudora Welty)
  • Welty's novella is set in the antebellum South, and is a modern retelling of a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm.
  • Memorable Quote: "And she would look out the window and see a cloud put up a mask over the secret face of the moon, and she would hear the pitiful cries of the night creatures."
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  • Wise Blood, 1952 (Flannery O'Connor)
  • Capturing the South after World War II, this novel explores faith, social change, and integrity. It's also a story about the clash of rural and urban, a common theme throughout the pages of Southern Gothic literature.
  • Memorable Quote: "It's easier to bleed than sweat, Mr. Motes."
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  • Southern Gothic Shorts, 2008 (Edited by Phillip J. Moreledge)
  • This anthology features 10 modern Southern Gothic short stories, proving the tradition is still going strong.
  • Memorable Quote: "Harlan savored every burning drop of his gin as Jezebel drifted into the muddy Tennessee." (from Kerry Donoghue's "The Pearl")
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