My subtitle deliberately echoes Houston Baker’s pivotal monograph, Turning South Again: Re-thinking Modernism, Re-reading Booker T, which—when it was first published in 2001—fundamentally altered the course of Southern studies. Beginning with a primal reorientation around the experiences of Black slavery and incarceration, the New Southern Studies went on to perform a sweeping reevaluation of its terms, tropes, subjects, and geographies.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has done an enormous amount of work to educate Americans and the rest of the world about how deeply embedded white supremacy is in our institutions, including cultural ones like art and literature. It has also demanded that we center the voices and perspectives of nonwhite people. So why is William Faulkner having another moment, right when it feels like we have heard quite enough of white people’s takes on race relations? And why is he still at the top of our pantheon of authors when so many other perfectly suitable successors, such as Toni Morrison, have emerged since Faulkner’s death fifty years ago?
Scholars have long understood the centrality that the plantation house possesses as both institution and symbol in William Faulkner’s fictional world.