With characteristic originality and insight, Trudier Harris-Lopez offers a new and challenging approach to the work of African American writers in these twelve previously unpublished essays. Collectively, the essays show the vibrancy of African American literary creation across several decades of the twentieth century. But Harris-Lopez's readings of the various texts deliberately diverge from traditional ways of viewing traditional topics.

South of Tradition focuses not only on well-known writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright, but also on up-and-coming writers such as Randall Kenan and less-known writers such as Brent Wade and Henry Dumas. Harris-Lopez addresses themes of sexual and racial identity, reconceptualizations of and transcendence of Christianity, analyses of African American folk and cultural traditions, and issues of racial justice. Many of her subjects argue that geography shapes identity, whether that geography is the European territory many blacks escaped to from the oppressive South, or the South itself, where generations of African Americans have had to come to grips with their relationship to the land and its history. For Harris-Lopez, "south of tradition" refers both to geography and to readings of texts that are not in keeping with expected responses to the works. She explains her point of departure for the essays as "a slant, an angle, or a jolt below the line of what would be considered the norm for usual responses to African American literature."

The scope of Harris-Lopez's work is tremendous. From her coverage of noncanonical writers to her analysis of humor in the best-selling The Color Purple , she provides essential material that should inform all future readings of African American literature.

Item Description:Print version record.
Physical Description:1 online resource (xv, 230 pages)
Bibliography:Includes bibliographical references and index.
Author Notes:Trudier Harris An author and lecturer on African American literature and folklore, Trudier Harris earned her Bachelor's degree from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and her Master's and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

In 1982, Harris wrote her first book, From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature. Some of her other books include Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison; The Power of the Porch: The Storyteller's Craft in Zora Neale Hurston; and Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin, which won the College Language Association Creative Scholarship in 1987. Harris's articles and book reviews have appeared in a number of journals, among them Studies in American Fiction, The Southern Humanities Review, and Callaloo Black American Literature Forum.

A resident fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Harris taught at the College of William and Mary in Virginia for six years before joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English.

She retired in July 2009 after 36 years of teaching full-time. She also served on faculties of the College of William and Mary and Emory University. She wrote several books including The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South. This title was designated as one of the "Outstanding Academic Titles" for 2009 by Choice.

(Bowker Author Biography)