Study Guide

Southern Gothic Texts

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Southern Gothic Resources

Primary Resources

Edgar Allan Poe, "Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)
It's a story about a way cray family living in an old, creepy house where some totally weird things happen. What's not to love?

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843)
A man kills another man and buries him under the floorboards. Oh, yeah.

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)
The first chapter of this novel about a Southern family, the Compsons, will mess with your head: it's told from the perspective of a cognitively disabled narrator.

William Faulkner, "A Rose for Emily" (1930)
What's Ms. Emily hiding in her bedroom upstairs? Something pretty shocking.

William Faulkner, A Light in August (1932)
Two strangers arrive in the Southern town of Jefferson, Mississippi, and all hell breaks loose.

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
This epic novel tells the story of Thomas Sutpen trying (and failing) to build a Southern dynasty.

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
McCullers's first novel, about a mute man named John Singer living in a Southern town, made a big splash when it was published. McCullers was just 23 years old.

Carson McCullers, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941)
McCullers's second novel deals with subjects that were taboo at the time, including homosexuality.

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)
Blanche DuBois is a fading Southern belle who's on the brink of falling apart in Williams's famous play.

William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust (1948)
One of Faulkner's later novels, Intruder in the Dust tackles the South's racial issues head on.

Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories (1951)
The title story in this collection is set in a small Georgia town, and it's all about how Amelia Evans falls in love with a stranger who comes to town.

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood: A Novel (1952)
O'Connor's first novel depicts a World War II vet making his way through a dark and bleak Southern landscape.

Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (1955)
A talkative grandma gets her family into all kinds of trouble in a short story that has a truly shocking ending.

Flannery O'Connor, "The Displaced Person" (1955)
European refugees who flee World War II don't find such a pleasant reception at Mrs. McIntyre's Southern farm.

Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
Big Daddy, the patriarch of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, just won't leave his alcoholic son, Brick, alone to drink himself to death.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
This novel, about a white lawyer defending a black man accused of a crime he didn't commit, became an instant classic when it was published in 1960.

Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (1966)
Okay, so it's nonfiction. But Capote's gripping retelling of the murder of a family in Kansas established him as one of the most important of Southern writers. Capote and Harper Lee were childhood friends.

Eudora Welty, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980)
Welty was another important short story writer from the South, and this collection showcases the best of her style.

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (1985)
Get ready for heaps and heaps of violence in this novel about a teenager making his way through the American West. While this novel isn't purely in the Southern Gothic tradition, McCarthy started his career writing works in the Southern Gothic style, and some of that carries over here, particularly in the fantastic landscapes and the descriptions of grotesque violence.

Secondary Resources

Joseph M. Flora and Lucinda H. MacKethan (Eds.), The Companion to Southern Literature: Themes, Genres, Places, People, Movements, and Motifs (2002)
Phew. That's a long title. But this book tells you everything you need to know, so it's a great place to start if you want to get a better idea not only of Southern Gothic, but Southern literature in general.

Philp M. Weinstein (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner (1995)
The essays in this collection will help you get a good handle on the work of the Big Daddy of Southern Gothic writers, William Faulkner.

Ruth D. Weston, Gothic Traditions and Narrative Techniques in the Fiction of Eudora Welty (1994)
Want to know exactly how Eudora Welty employed those Gothic techniques in her writing? Look no further than this study.

C. Hugh Holman, The Roots of Southern Writing: Essays on the Literature of the American South (2008)
In this collection of essays, Holman argues that Southern literature (including Southern Gothic) is born out of the contradictions that define the South. It's all paradoxical, people.

Jay Ellis (Ed.), Critical Insights: Southern Gothic Literature (2013)
Here's a collection of essays focusing exclusively on Southern Gothic literature. What is Southern Gothic? Who writes it? Why? All of your questions will be answered in this book.

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