Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, and Festschrift

Randall Stephens

I was in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, last week visiting with Bertram and Anne Wyatt-Brown. Both have been longtime members and supporters of the Historical Society and have participated in our national conferences. Bert has contributed several essays to Historically Speaking the Journal of the Historical Society, and this blog.

Before I left Boothbay and made my way back down to a sweltering Boston, I asked Bert some questions about his classic book Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South and his research into how honor continues to shape the world today. (Listen to audio of interview here.)

As some readers of this blog might know, Wyatt-Brown is the author of over 100 scholarly articles and essays and has written a variety of acclaimed books. Southern Honor was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The study of masculinity, gender, violence, and southern culture has thrived in the years since Bert wrote his book. Not long after its publication the it won high praise. Novelist Walker Percy called it "A remarkable achievement--a re-creation of the living reality of the antebellum South from thousands of bits and pieces of the dead past." And David Herbert Donald observed that, "Unlike so many historians who have been interested in handing down judgments, favorable or unfavorable, on the Old South, Wyatt-Brown has studied Southerners much as an anthropologist would an aboriginal tribe. An important, original book which challenges so many widely held beliefs about the Old South."

In celebration of Bert's long career and his impact, the University Press of Florida will soon publish a Festschrift to honor him. Edited by Daniel Kilbride and Lisa Tendrich Frank, the volume includes essays by a number of Bert's students and others on which he had a significant influence. It will be out just in time for the Southern Historical Association meeting in October.

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