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Critical Studies of Southern Place

A Reader

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Edited By William M. Reynolds

Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader critically investigates and informs the construction of Southernness, Southern identity, and the South past and present. It promotes and expands the notion of a Southern epistemology. Authors from across the South write about such diverse topics as Southern working-class culture; LGBT issues in the South; Southern music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. How do these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptualizations of place enhance our understandings of education? Critical Studies of Southern Place investigates the connections between the critical examination of place-specific culture and its multiple connections with education and pedagogy. This important book fills a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of place. Readers will be able to center the importance of place in their own scholarship and cultural work as well as be able to think deeply about how Southern place affects us all.
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Chapter Twenty-Six: Grotesque Stories, Desolate Voices: Encountering Histories and Geographies of Violence in Southern Gothic’s Haunted Mansions

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TWENTY-SIX

Grotesque Stories, Desolate Voices: Encountering Histories and Geographies of Violence in Southern Gothic’s Haunted Mansions

MARK HELMSING

“She would of [sic] been a good woman,” said The Misfit, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

—Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

“When witches don’t fight, we burn.”

—“Bitchcraft,” American Horror Story: Coven

Southern Gothic is a mode of expression in literature, art, film/television, and other mediums that employs the grotesque, the forgotten, the failed, and the macabre (sometimes through supernatural devices) to unearth and displace the values of the American South (Savoy, 1998; Yaeger, 2005). Southern Gothic appropriates stylistic devices of the much older European Gothic tradition, a tradition that includes “a pushing toward extremes and excess…of cruelty, rapacity and fear, passion and sexual degradation” that offers through closure in its endings a reinforcement of “culturally prescribed doctrines of morality and propriety” (Lloyd-Smith, 2004, p. 5). Whether lurking in bleak castles, moonlit graveyards, or atop a craggy cliff overlooking a crashing sea, Gothic characters “are generally up to no good, disbelieving in the significance of virginity and proclaiming their own superiority and inherent freedom as rational beings above the shibboleths of convention and religious faith” (p. 5). We imagine yoked nobility or disavowed aristocracy in the fading, ragged images of Heathcliff, Count Dracula, Miss Havisham, or Mrs. Danvers. In Southern Gothic texts,...

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