Novel Sounds: Southern Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Novel Sounds: Southern Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll

By Florence Dore (NHC Fellow, 2008–09; 2016–17)

Rock and Roll; American South; American History; American Literature; Cultural History; Southern United States

New York: Columbia University Press, 2018

From the publisher’s description:

The 1950s witnessed both the birth of both rock and roll and the creation of Southern literature as we know it. Around the time that Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley put their electric spin on Southern vernacular ballads, a canonical group of white American authors native to rock’s birthplace began to write fiction about the electrification of those ballads, translating into literary form key cultural changes that gave rise to the infectious music coming out of their region. In Novel Sounds, Florence Dore tells the story of how these forms of expression became intertwined and shows how Southern writers turned to rock music and its technologies—tape, radio, vinyl—to develop the “rock novel.”

Dore considers the work of Southern writers like William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and William Styron alongside the music of Bessie Smith, Lead Belly, and Bob Dylan to uncover deep historical links between rock and Southern literature. Along with rock pioneers, Southern authors drew from blues, country, jazz, and other forms to create a new brand of realism that redefined the Southern vernacular as global, electric, and notably white. Resurrecting this Southern literary tradition at the birth of rock, Dore clarifies the surprising but unmistakable influence of rock and roll on the American novel. Along the way, she explains how literature came to resemble rock and roll, an anti-institutional art form if there ever was one, at the very moment academics claimed literature for the institution.

Music / Literature / Rock and Roll / American South / American History / American Literature / Cultural History / Southern United States /

Dore, Florence (NHC Fellow, 2008–09; 2016–17). Novel Sounds: Southern Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.