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The Walker Percy Project

Novelists of the American South (Walker Percy and Shelby Foote)


Gaikwad Shahaji

Walker Percy was an American Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. He is best known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for fiction in 1962. He devoted his literary life to the exploration of the dislocation of man in the modern age. His work displays a unique combination of existential questioning southern sensibility and deep Catholic faith. Shelby Foote, another American Southern novelist, was a noted historian of the American Civil War who wrote The Civil War: A Narrative — a massive three-volume history of the war. With geographic and cultural roots in the Mississippi delta, Foote's life and writing paralleled the radical shift from the agrarian planter system of the old south to the civil rights era of the new south.

The need to study the works of Percy and Foote afresh arises from a basic academic requirement (i.e., the contemporary need to understand the southern consciousness in its relation to history and culture). The study focuses on the issues of history and consciousness as treated by these writers. The southern minds' obsession with the past is quite familiar, but through fictitious protagonists, both Percy and Foote have represented it in a new form of characters stance towards the past in the context of the new south. Confounded by the changes that the American South has witnessed in social political economic and industrial spheres, the characters in the novels of Percy and Foote experience the loss of self, which in turn results in meaningless existence. Since the present fails to provide them with meaningful existence, they turn to the past to seek an alternative to their present living.

The book is skillfully worked out according to the needs of students. The concept of history in the south, history and its relation with literature, the use of history in southern fiction, and changing perspectives on history have been provided to give them a complete understanding of pertinent issues related to history and consciousness. An elaborate analysis of the narrative techniques used by Percy and Foote are provided. The book will be useful to students and teachers of American literature and researchers in the field.

Gaikwad Shahaji is the author of Language Through Context and cowrote English Grammar: A Book of Sentence Structure and Vocabulary.

Publication Date: December 1, 2010