Meta-hyperboles in Southern Literature

My study of the literature and culture of the US South was conducted in 2017-2020 under the auspices of an OPUS research grant Hyperbole in the Writings of American Southern Authors (NCN OPUS 2016/23/B/HS2/01207) awarded by the Polish National Science Center and carried out in the Institute of English Studies at the Jagiellonian University. The objective of the project was to explore various ways in which Southern literature tackled the issues of regional identity and to trace the attempts of its authors to break free of the fraught and paradoxical culture of their upbringing. In that research project, I explored the figurative aspects of selected works by Katherine Anne Porter, William Faulkner, Lillian Smith, Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. For each of these authors I identified different modes of “hyperbolic” expression – tacit strategies of the deconstruction of the Southern paradox. Katherine Anne Porter and Tennessee Williams wrestle with the patriarchate and the cultural determinants of femininity; Lillian Smith and Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin struggle to unlearn the racism they imbibed in childhood; William Faulkner falls back on a hyperbolic mode to show that the past of the region continues to haunt its present like a ghost; Flannery O’Connor uses the strategy to create diverse grotesque images in a religious context; and Harper Lee shows how the oppressive culture of the South thwarts all attempts to break free from its impact.