Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

The South: Culture and History: Literature

This library guide is designed for researchers studying any topics related to the South's culture and history.


The American South has an incredible literary tradition.  Writers like Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, and John Grisham have all written about life in this intriguing region of the world.

To find biographical information about these Southern authors as well as links to texts and criticism, enter Literature Online (LION) database, and click the "Authors" link on the left sidebar.


Oxford English Dictionary Online- this is the largest dictionary of the English language ever created.  You can find definitions as well as etymologies (word histories).  It includes officially-recognized words as well as Southern slang like "y'all".  It also encompasses extinct words from early periods of Southern history.

Southern Poems, Novels, Short Stories, and Plays

Use these collections to find poems, novels, short stories, plays, and other fictional texts about the South.

Large Collections:

Literature Online (LION)--a fully searchable Library of more than 330,000 works of poetry, drama and prose, plus biographies, bibliographies, and key criticism and reference resources.  Click "Texts" on the left sidebar.  To use find texts for your historical research, you can limit by publication dates, author's life dates, and literary period as you scroll down the screen.

LitFinder--"access to a wide range of poetry, short stories, essays, plays, and speeches in anthologies from many periods of history. Also included are biographical essays, work overviews, and topic overviews. The database can be searched by author, title, subject, keyword, character name, author’s gender or ethnicity, publication date, document type, or genre."

Small Collections:

African-American Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century--from the Schomburg Center, over 50 published novels and other works.

Black Warrior Review--UA's own literary journal, read poetry and other works by UA students!

Dead Mule School of Southern Literature--"Southern Fiction, Essays, Poetry & more Since 1995"

Library of Southern Literature--"includes a wide range of literary works of the American South published before 1924."

Oxford American--"a national magazine out of Conway, Arkansas, dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South."  Available in print at Gorgas Library, Floor 4M, Call Number PS551 .O95.

Southern Women's Review--offers "poetry/prose, fiction, creative nonfiction/memoirs, and photography composed by Southern women (or Southern transplants)."

Wright American Fiction--novels published in the U.S. from 1851 to 1875.

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was an African-American female writer from Florida who wrote stories, folklore, and music about themes like prejudice, community, and African-American family life.  Watch the video below to hear an excerpt from Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God read by her niece.  Notice how Hurston used Southern African-American slang and dialects in her writing.

Literary Criticism

Literary criticism consists of articles and books that scholars have written about a poem, play, short story, or novel that you are studying.  After a a writer publishes a fictional work, other writers will explain and interpret that work.  

Norton defines literary criticism as "the evaluative or interpretive work written by professional interpreters of texts. It is "criticism" not because it is negative or corrective, but rather because those who write criticism ask hard, analytical, crucial, or "critical" questions about the works they read."

Here are some great resoures for criticism:

Literature Online (LION)--click "Criticism" on the left sidebar to find scholarly works about most famous Southern fiction. 

Literature Resource Center--another great database for criticism.

MLA International Bibliography--From the Modern Language Association of America, find articles "about literature, language, linguistics, and folklore."

Book Reviews

Book Review Digest Plus --reviews of books published from 1983--present.

Book Review Digest Retrospective --reviews of books published from 1905-1982.

Book Review Index --offers reviews of mainly scholarly books published from 1965-present.

JSTOR--offers feature articles as well as book reviews.  Select the "Advanced Search" screen, and check mark the "Reviews" box under the "Limit to:" heading in the left center of the page to limit your search to book reviews.