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Perspectives on Barry Hannah

Perspectives on Barry Hannah

Edited by Martyn Bone
Melanie R. Benson
Thomas Ærvold Bjerre
Martyn Bone
Mark S. Graybill
Richard E. Lee
Ken Millard
James B. Potts
Scott Romine
Matthew Shipe
Dan Williams
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Perspectives on Barry Hannah
    Book Description:

    Perspectives on Barry Hannahis a collection of essays devoted to the work of the award-winning fiction writer Barry Hannah. The anthology features a broad range of critical approaches and covers the span of Hannah's career fromGeronimo Rex(1972) toYonder Stands Your Orphan(2001). The book also includes a previously unpublished interview with Hannah.

    The ten essays cover all of Hannah's thirteen published books. The contributors give fresh perspectives on Hannah's classic works (AirshipsandRay), provide illuminating readings of important fiction that has received less critical attention (Nighwatchmen,Hey Jack!, andNever Die), and offer the first sustained criticism of Hannah's acclaimed later fiction (Bats Out of Hell,High Lonesome, andYonder Stands Your Orphan). As Martyn Bone explains in his introduction, the essays--though varied in approach and style--consistently hone in on the recurrent themes that characterize Hannah's career: his relationship to postmodernism; his interrogation of traditional ideas of masculinity and heroism; his complex engagement with southern history, literature, and culture; and his growing concern with spirituality and morality.

    The essays inPerspectives on Barry Hannahmake connections between Hannah's work and that of several prominent modern and postmodern authors, including William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Allen Tate, John Irving, J. M. Coetzee, and Cormac McCarthy. Contributors also consider Hannah's fiction in relation to non-literary cultural forms such as sport, film, and popular music. Ultimately,Perspectives on Barry Hannahaffirms Hannah's status as a leading figure in contemporary American literature.

    Martyn Bone is assistant professor of American literature at the Institute for English, German, and Romance Languages at the University of Copenhagen. His previous publications includeThe Postsouthern Sense of Place in Contemporary Fiction.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-505-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)
    Martyn Bone

    Born in Mississippi in 1942, Barry Hannah is the author of twelve books (excluding limited editions). His first novel,Geronimo Rex(1972), was nominated for the National Book Award and won the William Faulkner Prize; his first collection of short stories,Airships(1978), won the Arnold Gingrich Short Fiction Award; his most recent collection,High Lonesome(1996), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Ever since John Updike reviewedGeronimo Rexfavorably in theNew Yorker, Hannah has garnered reams of praise from writer peers both within and beyond the United States.Airshipsattracted plaudits from Cynthia Ozick, James Dickey, and...

  5. The Cultural Value of Metafiction: Geronimo Rex and High Lonesome
    (pp. 3-25)
    Kenneth Millard

    Barry Hannah’sGeronimo Rex(1972) is a classic coming-of-age novel that exhibits many characteristics of the bildungsroman and works within the parameters of generic conventions to give “a fresh angle on the great American subject of Growing Up” (Updike 124). The protagonist Harry Monroe gives a retrospective account of his childhood and adolescence so that we might better understand the formative experiences of white southern manhood in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s and the “unutterable burning filth of a young male’s mind” (271).Geronimo Rexis above all an uproarious depiction of adolescence, its foibles, absurdities and affectations lending...

  6. Off with Their Heads!: Nightwatchmen, Campus Novels, and the Problem of Representation
    (pp. 26-45)
    Richard E. Lee

    It is particularly appropriate to revisit Barry Hannah’s long-out-of-print second novel,Nightwatchmen(1973), in the wake of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. As during the September 2005 storm, so in the novel much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is wiped bare by the inscrutable, overwhelming force of nature. At a central point inNightwatchmen, Hurricane Camille—whose eye made landfall at Pass Christian on August 18, 1969²—eliminates the safe haven of the narrative’s unifying consciousness, much as it destroys the top three floors of Old Main, the campus locale where much of the novel’s action takes place. Through...

  7. Heroism and the Changing Face of American Manhood in Barry Hannah’s Fiction
    (pp. 46-64)
    Thomas Ærvold Bjerre

    The fine line between heroic behavior and mere violence is one that Barry Hannah explores in most of his fiction; his characters often veer from one side of the line to the other in a confused quest for meaning. As Hannah’s characters search for meaning in life, their pursuit finds expression in foolhardy attempts at heroism and sporadic bursts of violence. Hannah’s fiction is full of heroes, both true and false. The narrators or protagonists of Hannah’s stories are rarely the heroes, though they try to be. Instead, as Jan Gretlund has pointed out, they find themselves reduced to “seeking...

  8. The Shade of Faulkner’s Horse: Cavalier Heroism and Archetypal Immortality in Barry Hannah’s Postmodern South
    (pp. 65-84)
    James B. Potts III

    In “The Future of Southern Writing,” the closing essay in theHistory of Southern Literature(1985), Donald Noble declared the question of whether a unique southern literature still existed “shopworn,” and directed critical attentions to finer definitional concerns. Yet Noble also ventured the opinion that the distinctive qualities of southern life and literature “will be a very long time in the erasing” (578). In the twenty years since Noble’s essay appeared, southern male writers have demonstrated a marked continuity with their forebears. This continuity is especially apparent in the ubiquitous use by contemporary southern male writers of seemingly anachronistic images...

  9. Neo-Confederate Narrative and Postsouthern Parody: Hannah and Faulkner
    (pp. 85-101)
    Martyn Bone

    According to Harold Bloom’s renowned theory of literary influence, “latecomers” have forever fought futile Oedipal battles to overcome their poetic antecedents. As this “anxiety of influence” exacts its toll, so Bloom sees literary history as a (meta)narrative of decline from the English Renaissance via Romanticism to “further decline in its Modernist and post-Modernist heirs” (Bloom 10). Within the somewhat narrower confines of U.S. southern literary history, William Faulkner looms large as the local equivalent of Bloom’s “Great Original.” Some forty-five years ago, Flannery O’Connor famously figured Faulkner as “the Dixie Limited” bearing down upon the “mule and wagon” of every...

  10. Accountability, Community, and Redemption in Hey Jack! and Boomerang
    (pp. 102-119)
    Matthew Shipe

    Introducing the 1993 reissue of Barry Hannah’sBoomerang(1989), Rick Bass praised the work, a fusion of autobiography and novel, as “the sweetest of [Hannah’s] books, one of the sweetest books ever written” (vii). While Bass’s comment conveys the spirit ofBoomerang, it applies equally to Hannah’s previous novel,Hey Jack!(1987). Written at the midpoint of Hannah’s career, these novels have attracted relatively little critical attention beyond their original notices and Mark Charney’s chapter in his critical volume on Hannah. Charney argues that the texts’ formal and thematic similarities provide a convincing basis for their being read in tandem....

  11. “Peeping Toms on History”: Never Die as Postmodern Western
    (pp. 120-138)
    Mark S. Graybill

    In his thoughtful essay, “Home by Way of California: The Southerner as the Last European,” Lewis P. Simpson explores what seem to him basic differences between the mind of the South and its western “other.” The latter, contends Simpson, has corollaries in the artistic vision of northeasterners—Henry David Thoreau, James Fenimore Cooper, and the “father” of the popular western, Owen Wister—who create fictions in which a hero transcends history amid the pristine, naturally democratic vistas of the American landscape. In contrast, the former extends a tragic European outlook that sees the individual as a creature trapped, the hapless...

  12. Southern and Western Native Americans in Barry Hannah’s Fiction
    (pp. 139-160)
    Melanie R. Benson

    In the spring 2005 special issue ofSouth Central Reviewentitled “Rethinking Southern Literary Studies,” Patricia Yaeger investigates a litany of ghosts haunting southern literature as shattered reminders of its imperfectly repressed racial trauma. We must pay attention to these tropes, she suggests, “lest we forget, in this halfway house beyond segregation, that we are still recreating, in our lives and stories, the conditions of racial haunting” (107). Yaeger locates this “return of the dispossessed” primarily in African American fiction (95, 101, 104). In her contribution to the same special issue, Sarah Ford agrees that southern studies itself is “haunted...

  13. Orphans All: Reality Homesickness in Yonder Stands Your Orphan
    (pp. 161-182)
    Scott Romine

    At the conclusion ofNever Die, Barry Hannah’s venture to the West and the western, Fernando Muré rejects the idea that he will be rendered a hero in a West shrouded in nostalgia: “Thing is, it was all wrong and I am a villain.Except. I’m here studying up how I can make the next years fine ones, by my little Stella. I mean to be something extraordinary and make a high mark for good” (152). His physical disfigurement gives him, he says, “a whole lot better chance” (152) by exiling him from the provinces of romantic iconography. The opposition...

  14. Interview with Barry Hannah
    (pp. 183-190)
    Daniel E. Williams and Barry Hannah

    Dan Williams (DW):Well, Barry, how are your classes going?

    Barry Hannah (BH): I’m teaching the best graduate writing class I have ever taught.

    DW:Why is that?

    BH: Many thanks to our angel and loyal intercessor John Grisham, I think our program is starting to pay off. We have selective admissions, only a few very talented people. We have students from all over, from Michigan and California. But I also have a really rousing group of students now. Sometimes you just get a class to remember. You get everybody good. It’s the good dice of time. I feel lucky,...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 191-193)
  16. Index
    (pp. 194-198)