Cover image for Hearts of darkness : wellsprings of a southern literary tradition
Hearts of darkness : wellsprings of a southern literary tradition
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, 1932-2012.
Publication Information:
Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 235 pages ; 24 cm.
I. The origins of Southern literary melancholy -- Alienation and art : Poe's Raven -- II. Sectionalism, war, defeat -- Literary fire-eaters : a "culture of failure" : Tucker, Hammond, and Ruffin -- "Golden goal" unachieved : William Gilmore Simms & Co.-- "English malady" in Southern poetry : 1830-1880 -- III. Subversive humor, melancholy dualities -- Little shop girl's sad knight : O. Henry -- Trickster motif and disillusion : Uncle Remus and Mark Twain -- IV. The impact of female writers -- Lowering birds at the dawn of modernism : Constance Fenimore Woolson and Kate Chopin -- Female "Southern renaissance" : Willa Cather and Ellen Glasgow.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS261 .W93 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From Edgar Allan Poe's dark fore-bodings to Kate Chopin's lifelong struggle with sorrow and loss, depression has shadowed southern letters. This beautifully realized study explores the defining role of melancholy in southern literature from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth, when it evolved into modernist alienation. While creativity and depression have been linked throughout Western history, Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that nineteenth-century southern culture was hospitable to a distinctive melancholy that impelled literary production. Deeply marked by high death rates, social dread, and bitter defeat, white southerners imposed a climate of parochial pride, stifling conventions of masculinity, social condescension, and mistrust of intellectualism. Many writers experienced a conscious or unconscious alienation from the prevailing social currents. And they expressed emotional turmoil in and through their writing. Hearts of Darkness develops original insights into the lives and creative impulses of both major and more obscure writers. Discussing individuals as diverse as William Gilmore Simms, Mark Twain, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Sidney Lanier, and Ellen Glasgow

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wyatt-Brown (history, Univ. of Florida) asserts that a uniquely Southern conjunction of imagination with the "ethics of honor" and melancholy creates a 19th-century literary tradition that changes definitively only when "transitional modernists" like Cather, Fenimore Woolson, Chopin, and Glasgow conduct the introspective exploration of alienation that an earlier generation of male writers could not. The author casts a wide net, demonstrating the usually crippling literary effects of early trauma, familial predispositions toward depression, and an adherence to group identity and to Southern honor in prose writers such as Poe, Simms, Harris, O. Henry, and Twain; secessionist "fire-eaters" Ruffin, Hammond, and Tucker; poets Timrod and Lanier, and other minor figures. As one might expect in such an ambitious undertaking, some sections are more gripping than others--discussions of Poe, Abraham Lincoln, and O. Henry are particularly fresh--and some generalizations are rather sweeping. One would like, for instance, to see finer distinctions made between a particularly Southern reticence and a more national reserve and between the peculiar consequences of the "ethics of honor" and the broader restrictions of Southern group membership. Still, Wyatt-Brown makes a convincing case for the problematic literary (and personal) effects of Southern identity, melancholy, and alienation. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All academic collections. Lower-division undergraduates and above. M. L. Robertson Sweet Briar College