Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What is the Southern Voice?

My son and then fiancé Brittany on the steps of my grandparents home, Wakefield

What is the Southern voice?

Kathy Holtzfel (Cate Noble) and I spoke together recently when the topic of the Southern voice came up. Kathy read Creme de Cassis and Murder, the first novel in my Mint Juleps series. In reading the novel she commented that she quickly came to the conclusion that she did NOT have a southern voice implying that I did. So, I asked her, what makes a southern voice? 

It is hard to define, she answered, it's just something when you read it you recognize it.

She then did an internet search and added the information below that she found in the Goodreads discussion:

One of those participating in the discussion mentioned Dr. O. B. Emerson who taught English at the University of Alabama from 1946 to 1986. I took a course under him as did my husband, upon whom he had the greatest influence. Dr. Emerson was a great man and one of the best professors either of us had the privilege of studying under. 

When Kathy presented me with Dr. Emerson's criteria for what is involved in defining the Southern voice,I sat up and paid attention.  

Family, especially lineage and genealogy.
Time, especially the influence of the past on the present.
Place, as it relates to the connection of the people to the land. He specifically included the influence of the Fugitive Poets and the Agrarians here.
Dialect or Dialog--a distinct idiom or patois unique to the setting.
Social Status or the lack of it.
The Lost Cause--the fact that the South became an occupied nation and lived through a period of reconstruction.
Humor--beginning with what was considered Southwestern Humor. By that is not meant Texas, but at the time was considered Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Race--embracing the dark history of slavery and the burden of guilt carried by white southerners. The changing relationships between black and white Americans."

I must admit to being comforted by the fact that these characteristics do comprise everything I write and I can proudly claim to being a writer with a southern voice. One of the reasons I have decided to self-publish my novels is that it seems to me that editors who edited the original novel tried to make it palatable to the mass market and in the process edited much of that voice out of the manuscript. We southerners are a unique breed. Our customs and mannerisms seem strange to those who come to the South from another part of the country. Dr. Emerson pointed out in his courses that we have a unique heritage with roots that run deep in our collective psyche. 

We are who we are. And proud of it.

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