Omar’s Bayou: The Jazz Origin Myth of Treat It Gentle

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Book Summary: Swamp Souths: Literary and Cultural Ecologies expands the geographical scope of scholarship about southern swamps. Although the physical environments that form its central subjects are scattered throughout the southeastern United States―the Atchafalaya, the Okefenokee, the Mississippi River delta, the Everglades, and the Great Dismal Swamp―this evocative collection challenges fixed notions of place and foregrounds the ways in which ecosystems shape cultures and creations on both local and global scales.

Across seventeen scholarly essays, along with a critical introduction and afterword, Swamp Souths introduces new frameworks for thinking about swamps in the South and beyond, with an emphasis on subjects including Indigenous studies, ecocriticism, intersectional feminism, and the tropical sublime. The volume analyzes canonical writers such as William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Eudora Welty, but it also investigates contemporary literary works by Randall Kenan and Karen Russell, the films Beasts of the Southern Wild and My Louisiana Love, and music ranging from swamp rock and zydeco to Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade.

Navigating a complex assemblage of places and ecosystems, the contributors argue with passion and critical rigor for considering anew the literary and cultural work that swamps do. This dynamic collection of scholarship proves that swampy approaches to southern spaces possess increased relevance in an era of climate change and political crisis.