Reading Erskine Caldwell

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About the Book

Erskine Caldwell has been compared to literary giants like Faulkner and Hemingway, yet he has also been reviled as peddler of pop trash. Was he a genius, or just a shooting star whose brilliance faded long before he stopped writing? Caldwell began his career in the late 1920s and gained fame for revealing the gritty backwoods South in novels such as his seminal Tobacco Road. He wrote prolifically, sometimes as much as a book a year. As the editor of this book maintains, perhaps anyone who wrote so much would inevitably stumble.
These 12 essays explore a variety of issues. They discuss Caldwell as humorist, social commentator, modernist, and revolutionary novelist. They examine his themes and tropes (political images, social injustice, the environment, ideological struggles) and his use of artistic devices (short stories, cubist strategies, repetition). A generous bibliography includes not only books on Caldwell but also chapters and forewords, journal articles, essays, news items and obituaries. The reader is encouraged to look at Caldwell with fresh eyes, to press beyond his controversial image, and to compare his works, especially his early ones, to those of any of the top names in literature.

About the Author(s)

Robert L. McDonald is associate dean for academic affairs and professor of English at Virginia Military Institute. He has written numerous essays on Southern literature and art and edited two other books on Caldwell. A past president of the Popular/American Culture Association in the South, he lives in Lexington, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Robert L. McDonald
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 3 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2343-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction (Robert L. McDonald)      1

Erskine Caldwell’s Short Stories: Teetering on the Edge of the Canon (David Rachels)      11
Well, Maybe Just This Once: Erskine Caldwell, Old Southwest Humor, and Funny Ha-Ha (Bert Hitchcock)      27
Comedy and Satire in Erskine Caldwell’s The Sure Hand of God (Hugh Ruppersburg)      46
Erskine Caldwell: Modernism from the Bottom Up (Sylvia J. Cook)      58
Cubist Strategies: From Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow” to Caldwell’s “Yellow Girl” (Joyce Caldwell Smith)      77
Poeticizing the Political Image: Caldwell, Bourke-White, and the Recasting of Phototextual Expression (Tom Jacobs)      92
Social Injustice Embodied: Caldwell and the Grotesque (Natalie Wilson)      114
Silent Spring on Tobacco Road: The Degradation of the Environment in Erskine Caldwell’s Fiction (Christopher B. Rieger)      131
“Ripe for Revolution”: Ideological Struggle in God’s Little Acre (Jonathan Dyen)      150
Repetition as Radical Critique in Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre (Christopher Metress)      165
Erskine Caldwell and Judge Lynch: Caldwell’s Role in the Anti-Lynching Campaigns of the 1930s (Edwin T. Arnold)      183
Sexual Degeneracy and the Anti-Lynching Tradition in Erskine Caldwell’s Trouble in July (Andrew B. Leiter)      203
Selected Bibliography of Works on Erskine Caldwell: 1982–2005 (Robert L. McDonald)      223
Contributors      231
Index      235