"To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi."
Attributed to William Faulkner, this quotation will serve as the framework for an examination of 20th century Mississippi literature. This course will introduce students to major 20th century writers and will focus on how these writers engage issues of class, race, gender, language, and religion. Most importantly, the course will examine these works to challenge prevailing notions about Mississippi.
Faulkner suggests that in starting in Mississippi, writers from the state begin to better understand themselves and how they fit in the world around them, validating their, and more importantly, Mississippi's significance to the world. Focusing on works by such writers as Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Walker Percy, and Tennessee Williams, the course will begin by examining how Mississippi has been constructed as a monolithic space without diversity or variability and then move to focus on how these writers have deconstructed such notions, creating Mississippi as a diverse place.
Students will become familiar with representative literary works from Mississippi and by the end of the course, will be able to articulate the distinctive characteristics (literary, historical, social, and cultural) of Mississippi literature. They will develop an appreciation of, and a more nuanced understanding of, the ways in which Mississippi literature has served to redefine the state's identity in the imagination. Students will explore the relationship/connectedness between Mississippi literature and contested issues within society and politics and will develop skills in literary analysis and discussion necessary for college-level work.