One reason that I veered off the academic career path and into my own intellectual no man’s land was that I don’t enjoy theory . . . I’m a literary guy, relatively smart, and in general, I get it. I have the academic background- a bachelor’s and master’s, though not a Ph.D. I’ll admit that reading works of theory takes me a minute and some effort, though I don’t know anyone who breezes through. Also, I do have to look up some terms, since academic theorists like their big, heady terms, but by the end of the reading, I usually…


As the third reading period ends today, the last chance to submit a work of creative nonfiction for possible inclusion in Nobody’s Home: Modern Southern Folklore opens tomorrow. This fourth and final reading period will end on August 15, with works accepted during that time being published in September 2021.

The first three reading periods have now passed, and this will be the last opportunity for writers to submit work for possible inclusion in the anthology. The submissions guidelines provide more information how to query and what the editor is looking for.

The first two batches of works in the…


Prisons in the state of Mississippi have a mythic status as some of the toughest in the nation. Among other facilities, the state’s infamous Parchman Farm entered the national consciousness in the 1940s with the Bukka White song that bears its name, and during the Civil Rights movement, Parchman appeared again as the place where Gov. Ross Barnett sent the Freedom Riders. More recently, the prison played a role in Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, and its history was then featured in a 2018 story on PBS NewsHour.

Amid this difficult, ongoing narrative is Vox Press’s Prison Writes…


There’s this belief that all Southerners love guns. Guns are an ubiquitous part of the mythology of the South, offering as prevalent a set of images as our food, churches, front porches, and small towns. Yet, that narrative of an all-encompassing gun culture isn’t completely accurate.

Really, it’s only about half of us (or a bit more) who have guns. A recent CBS News story ranking states by the percentage of adults that own a gun had mostly Western states populating the top spots, but the South was hanging in there. Arkansas was the highest-ranking Southern state at number six…


The Myth and Southern History series jumped right out at me when I was looking for books to read for this project, and it was Volume 2: The New South that seemed most relevant. This second edition, published in 1988, meant that all of my reading so far has been from the 1980s and ‘90s.

I have to say first: it’s hard to write succinctly about a multi-author essay collection. The first two books I wrote about for this project were single-author collections — by Wilson and Kirby — so there was the cohesion of responding to one thinker. The…


Among the many stereotypes and assumptions about rural Southerners, one tries to perpetuate the myth that all of them are naturally capable in agriculture pursuits: managing plants, fixing things, tending animals. In this brief essay, Claude Clayton Smith describes one rural Southerner whose bright idea to incorporate an undomesticated farm animal into his family’s (and neighbors’) domesticated lives shows us that those myths are not universally true.

The Gallaghers’ Goat
by Claude Clayton Smith

Rich Gallagher, our southwest Virginia country neighbor in the late 1970s, was an artist, a serious oil painter who was always winning awards. …


Who is “Southern”? It depends on who you ask, and while Southerners may consider ourselves de facto authorities on this mythic subject, people outside of the South have their ideas, too. In this essay, a Seattleite uses her marital connection to the South as an example of narrative about Southerners that come from without, rather than within, the region.

Damn Yankee
by Lynn Magill

In the general hierarchy of things, I was born in Iowa and raised in Seattle from the time I was a toddler. However, Seattle people don’t consider you really from Seattle unless you’ve been here since…


The South’s cultural dependence on history is mythic, and narratives about the past have often superseded facts. While the historical facts provide a clear portrayal of grim and regrettable realities, knowing what to do with and about that history in modern times is less clear. In this essay, McMillan grapples with the nuances of commingling fact with narrative and connects those issues to what sociologists call “material culture.”

Two Chairs
by Norman McMillan

From the 1940s down to the present day, I have always been aware of them: a pair of ladder-back straight chairs constructed of white oak. They have…


Historian James C. Cobb called Mississippi The Most Southern Place on Earth, and its name alone evokes imagery and sentiments that form the basis of folklore about the South. In this essay, Mississippi writer Randall Weeks dives into what may be the most Southern of Southern mythic symbols: the Confederate flag, whose use, meaning, and relevance has evolved over time.

Made in Mississippi: The Idolatry of Symbols of the Confederacy
by Randall S. Weeks

“Homo sapiens are the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.” Joyce Carol Oates

Symbols…

Foster Dickson

writer, editor, & award-winning teacher in Montgomery, AL | editor of “Nobody’s Home” | proud Gen X | www.fosterdickson.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store