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The Seeds of Southern Gothic?

Southern gothic literature emerged in the 1920s in the work of William Faulkner, followed by writers such as Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote.   Characteristic of this work is a dark, often melodramatic tone, violent plots, Byronic characters and a collective psyche still suffering the effects of the Civil War.

Nina Baym makes an argument in the video clip appearing on this page that Southern Gothic literature had its roots in the work of Augusta Evans Wilson.   That she was writing in a Victorian, sentimentalist style and Faulkner was a Modernist is less important than the fact that both told stories anchored in a mythic past with characters burned by guilt and prone to violence.   The Passion of Miss Augusta completed in 2013, tests this notion by adapting scenes from Augusta’s novel St. Elmo as if it had been made in the 1950s, when Hollywood produced a number of films based on the work of Faulkner and Tennessee Williams.

Eudora Welty made the most direct reference to Augusta in the comic story “The Ponder Heart” (1954), where a fiercely independent heroine named Edna Earle Ponder (after the heroine of St. Elmo) challenges the male hierarchy of a small Mississippi town.