The American South received increased attention from national commentators during the interwar era. Beginning in the 1920s, the proliferation of daily book columns and Sunday book supplements in newspapers reflected a growing audience of educated readers and its demand for books and book reviews. This period of intensified scrutiny coincided with a boom in the publishing industry, which, in turn, encouraged newspapers to pay greater attention to the world of books. Reviewing the South shows how northern critics were as much involved in the Southern Literary Renaissance as Southern authors and critics. Southern writing, Gardner argues, served as a litmus to gauge Southern exceptionalism. For critics and their readers, nothing less than the region's ability to contribute to the vibrancy and growth of the nation was at stake.
Sarah Gardner is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Southern Studies at Mercer University, Georgia where she teaches courses on the American South, nineteenth-century America, and print culture. She is the author of Blood and Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937 (2012) and co-editor of Voices of the American South (2004).
Introduction: from Renaissance to reformation; 1. The world the reviewers made; 2. The cultural economy of reading in the interwar years; 3. The South meets Harlem; 4. Confronting Jim Crow; 5. Away down South in the land of problems; 6. A class of burden bearers; 7. The most audacious book ever written by Southerners; 8. Fiction fights the Civil War; Epilogue.