Beyond Literary Landscapes—Southern Gothic

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column is part two of my series on the Gothic literary genre.  In particular, it continues with my previous focus on American Gothic by considering the sub-genre of Southern Gothic.

It is important to note that despite being “related to both the English and American Gothic tradition, Southern Gothic is uniquely rooted in the South’s tensions and aberrations.”

Some main characteristics of these works “include the presence of irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation.”  Many works also draw attention to the region’s history, including “slavery, racism, and patriarchy.”


Well-known works in this genre include As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.


These novels are throughout the southern United States.


These novels take place in the 19th century.


Southern Gothic novels may be of interest to learners who would like to learn more about the history of the American South, as well consider the themes of various well-known authors.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Southern Gothic are available in a variety of disciplines, including ones that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

As mentioned in last week’s column, AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 344: American Literature I and ENGL 345: American Literature II, both senior-level, three-credit courses.  (Students should note that both courses require ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites).

Students who would enjoy the works of Zora Neale Hurston may also enjoy ENGL 361: Literature of the Harlem Renaissance, another senior-level, three-credit course, which “focus[es] on this cultural.  historic and artistic movement of the 1920s and 1930s, examining the racial, political and social issues of the time period, as well as the questions of race and ethnicity, the diversity of Black culture and identity, and artistic trends and movements as part of the larger Modernist movement in America.”  (Similarly, this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites.  In addition, previous enrollment in ENGL 344: American Literature I or ENGL 345 is recommended, although not required).  Happy reading!