Literary New Orleans from 1880 to the Present

Greetings from Literary New Orleans.  This site is part of a spring 2013 seminar taught by Professor Suzanne W. Jones at the University of Richmond on literature and film set in New Orleans, Louisiana. Americans have long been fascinated with New Orleans. Its tropical climate, its racially and ethnically diverse population, its mixing of peoples and cultures, its distinctive architecture, cuisine, and music, and even the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have distinguished it to many as the most “foreign” city in the United States. From its origins, New Orleans has been both praised and denigrated, but almost always, it’s been thought of as America’s “exotic other.” In this course we have discussed how American writers have represented New Orleans in literature and film from the late nineteenth century to the present. We have analyzed how some of the country’s most interesting writers have engaged the city–its geography, culture, and myths–as we compare the representations of New Orleans by natives, such as George Washington Cable and Alice Dunbar-Nelson, to those by newcomers, such as Kate Chopin and Tennessee Williams, and by frequent visitors, such as Eudora Welty and Robert Olen Butler. Literary critic Lewis Simpson has argued that early on “the literary imagination isolated the Vieux Carré as the only interesting setting in the city thereby reducing the whole expanding city to one of its small parts,” but recent writers such as Walker Percy, John Gregory Brown, Christine Wiltz, and Brenda Marie Osbey, and filmmakers Spike Lee and J. Leo Chiang, have put other neighborhoods on the map: Gentilly, the lower Garden District, the Garden District, Tremé, the lower Ninth Ward, and New Orleans East. Over the course of the semester, students’ illustrated research essays have been published online and linked to our collaborative interactive map of “Literary New Orleans,” which you can view by clicking on “Collaborative Map” on the menu bar.

We are grateful to many people who have helped us along the way. We could not have started this project without the expertise of Ken Warren in the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology and of Scott Nesbit and Nate Ayers in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Univeristy of Richmond. In New Orleans, we would like to thank Professor Barbara Ewell at Loyola University for her suggestions about readings, Professor Thomas Bonner at Xavier University for his suggestions on mapping, and Professor Richard Campanella at Tulane University for his geographical insights. We owe a special thanks to my colleague Professor Nathan Snaza and to novelists John Gregory Brown, Robert Olen Butler, and Chris Wiltz. The streetcar image is courtesy of “NewOrleansOnline.com”

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About swjones

Suzanne W. Jones is Professor of English and chair of the English Department at the University of Richmond. In the fall 2010 she taught an interdiscipliinary first-year seminar on "Americans in Paris."; in the spring 2013 she is teaching a seminar on "Literary New Orleans." Her articles on modern and contemporary literature have appeared in a number of journals and essay collections. She is the author of Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties (2004) and the editor of three collections of essays -- Poverty and Progress in the U.S. South since 1920 with Mark Newman (2006), South to a New Place: Region, Literature, Culture with Sharon Monteith (2002) and Writing the Woman Artist: Essays on Poetics, Politics, and Portraiture (1991) -- and two collections of stories -- Crossing the Color Line: Readings in Black and White (2000) and Growing Up in the South (1991, 2003). Recently an essay on Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from my Father, was published in the collection, The Obama Effect. Her most recent essay published in an online journal is "Imagining Jefferson and Hemings in Paris" (Transatlantica: Revue d’Études Américaines, 1 [2111] http://transatlantica.revues.org/5391).
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