Writing the South through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiography

Writing the South through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiography

by John C. Inscoe


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


Drawing on two decades of teaching a college-level course on southern history as viewed through autobiography and memoir, John C. Inscoe has crafted a series of essays exploring the southern experience as reflected in the life stories of those who lived it. Constantly attuned to the pedagogical value of these narratives, Inscoe argues that they offer exceptional means of teaching young people because the authors focus so fully on their confrontations—as children, adolescents, and young adults—with aspects of southern life that they found to be troublesome, perplexing, or challenging.

Maya Angelou, Rick Bragg, Jimmy Carter, Bessie and Sadie Delany, Willie Morris, Pauli Murray, Lillian Smith, and Thomas Wolfe are among the more prominent of the many writers, both famous and obscure, that Inscoe draws on to construct a composite portrait of the South at its most complex and diverse. The power of place; struggles with racial, ethnic, and class identities; the strength and strains of family; educational opportunities both embraced and thwarted—all of these are themes that infuse the works in this most intimate and humanistic of historical genres.

Full of powerful and poignant stories, anecdotes, and testimonials, Writing the South through the Self explores the emotional and psychological dimensions of what it has meant to be southern and offers us new ways of understanding the forces that have shaped southern identity in such multifaceted ways.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820337678
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 05/01/2011
Pages: 268
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JOHN C. INSCOE is a professor of history emeritus at the University of Georgia and the founding editor of the New Georgia Encyclopedia. He is coauthor of The Heart of Confederate Appalachia.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Lessons from Southern Lives: Teaching Race through Autobiography
Chapter 2. "I Learn What I Am": Adolescent Struggles with Mixed-Race Identity
Chapter 3. "All Manner of Defeated, Shiftless, Shifty, Pathetic and Interesting Good People": Autobiographical Encounters with Southern White Poverty
Chapter 4. Railroads, Race, and Remembrance: The Traumas of Train Travel in the Jim Crow South
Chapter 5. "I'm Better than This Sorry Place": Coming to Terms with Self and the South in College
Chapter 6. Sense of Place, Sense of Being: Appalachian Struggles with Identity, Belonging, and Escape
Afterword. "Getting Fed Up with this Two-Tone South": Moving toward Multiculturalism
Selected Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Inscoe’s vast knowledge of southern life-writing, his grounding in southern history, and his insight into the various southern tempers have resulted in a book that is a significant contribution to the field.”—Fred Hobson, author of Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain

“Infused with insights drawn from the vast experiences of an accomplished scholar, a caring teacher, and a passionate and empathetic reader. Inscoe’s defense of the unique potential that autobiography has to shape our emotional understanding of the southern past is lucid, engaging, and utterly convincing.”—Jennifer Jensen Wallach, author of Closer to the Truth Than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow

"These highly readable essays offer nuanced and probing examinations of a wide range of important and, in the case of quite a few, neglected U.S. southern autobiographies and memoirs. With its original and arresting insights into the psychological repercussions of racism, classism, and gender discrimination, John C. Inscoe’s Writing the South through the Self is especially valuable to anyone who teaches life writing in the South or the history of Jim Crow."—Jim Watkins, editor of Southern Selves: From Mark Twain and Eudora Welty to Maya Angelou and Kaye Gibbons, a Collection of Autobiographical Writing


"This book is an answer to a prayer for people wanting to learn about and understand the South. Along with good history on a complex region of the United States, we see it through the eyes and hearts of Southerners telling their own stories. From racism, white life in Appalachia, mixed race identities, to the agonies of Jim Crow, we hear the voices of Lillian Smith, Richard Wright, Jimmy Carter, Zora Neale Hurston, and a host of others speaking in this absorbing book."—Constance W. Curry, author of Silver Rights

Writing the South is without a doubt a valuable contribution to the field of southern studies.”—Janelle Collins, Arkansas Review

Writing the South through the Self provides a solid introductory text for scholars and students looking to survey the parameters of southern autobiographical writing.”—Lisa Hinrichsen, Arkansas Historical Quarterly

“[The book’s] breadth and the richness of its sources and interpretation make this book an important contribution to southern studies and biographical research.”—Jennifer Ritterhouse, Biography

“Using lives recounted by the southerners who lived them, Inscoe skillfully teases out meanings about the larger southern experience embedded in memoir. . . . In his hands, autobiography becomes an excellent teaching tool, which he uses to inspire students and promote empathy.”—Pamela Tyler, Journal of Southern History

Customer Reviews