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Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote: Novelist and Historian

Copyright Date: 1992
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  • Book Info
    Shelby Foote
    Book Description:

    Called the greatest Civil War historian, Shelby Foote began his career as a novelist whose powerful works of fiction rose out of his closeness to life and culture in his native region, the Mississippi Delta country. Later in his career he transformed modern historical prose by his keen sense of the novel. His artistic distance from the elements of regionalism that lie at the heart both of his novels and of his history writing gives his prose great narrative force.

    This perceptive study fills the genuine need for a sound critical appreciation of Foote the novelist. After he appeared as a sage commentator in the PBS seriesThe Civil War, the popular acclaim that catapulted Shelby Foote the historian to even greater eminence as an American oracle renewed much deserved interest in his novels and in critically rich assessments such as this one.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-666-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Chapter I The Wilds of the English Language
    (pp. 3-38)

    In Greenville, Mississippi, in the years just before the United States entered World War II, Shelby Foote wrote a draft of what would turn out to be his first novel—Tournament. Foote was as concerned as anyone about the need to win the war against the German armies in Europe, and he had become a private in the National Guard in anticipation of the war. The strength of the military tradition in the South—the heritage of wars with the British, the Indians, and the Mexicans, made fast in the region by the Civil War against the northern invader—demanded...

  5. Chapter II Tournament and Shiloh
    (pp. 39-86)

    With reviewers and readers in the United States,Shilohhas been Foote’s most successful novel. It was the first novel he completed upon his return to Greenville after the war, but the editors at Dial Press did not think it would sell. On 2 June 1951, he completed a third draft, and Dial issued it on 7 April 1952, afterTournament, Follow Me Down, andLove in a Dry Seasonhad appeared. Nevertheless, in design and conception,Shilohfits withTournamentand some of the earlier stories that Foote published while he was a student at Chapel Hill. He had...

  6. Chapter III A Jordan County Trilogy
    (pp. 87-157)

    In February 1951 Foote was confident that he had learned his craft and that, with the publication ofLove in a Dry Season, his apprenticeship had come to an end. “This one will do it,” he wrote, “wind up my apprenticeship, forge my middle-period style, set me up to make a dent in American literature (8Feb51).” The apprenticeship Foote delineated in winter of 1951 included the three published novels—Tournament, Follow Me Down,andLove in a Dry Season—that were set in Jordan County. He did not anticipate that several months later Dial would scheduleShilohfor publication; that,...

  7. Chapter IV Form and The Civil War: A Narrative
    (pp. 158-211)

    Hugh Bart helped bury Major Dubose, Foote’s Civil War veteran in “Flood Burial,” the veteran who had devoted years and thousands of pages of manuscript to a history of the war. Bart gave him temporary burial in the iron-bound wooden chest that also contained the pulpy remains of his flood-ruined manuscript. It is a telling Proustian image of a modern world that has lost touch with its past and makes even more fitting Foote’s acceptance in 1954 of an offer from Random House to write a history himself. He did not realize in 1954 that he would spend twenty years,...

  8. Chapter V September September
    (pp. 212-238)

    It was a bad time in many ways, some of them comprehensible, others not,” Foote’s narrator beginsSeptember September,sounding somewhat like Dickens beginningA Tale of Two Cities. The time was September 1957, a watershed in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, for that was the month President Eisenhower sent troops of the 82nd Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas. The conflict between Arkansas governor Orval Faubus and Eisenhower over the integration of Central High School in Little Rock provides the background against which the events of Foote’s novel take place.

    The final volume...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 239-246)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 247-252)
  11. Index
    (pp. 253-261)