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Ordering the Facade

Photography and Contemporary Southern Women's Writing

By Katherine Henninger

Ordering the Facade

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 36 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5805-9
    Published: April 2007

New Directions in Southern Studies

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Proposing a new way to map intersections of photography and American literature, Katherine Henninger demonstrates the importance of pinpointing specific cultural and subcultural history. Ordering the Facade traces the visual and literary cultures of southern womanhood that have ordered the image of "the South" from its plantation past to its "postsouthern" present. Assessed in light of these visual legacies, contemporary writing by southern women emerges vividly in Henninger's analysis as both shaped by and shaping these continuously powerful representations.

Typically celebrated for their oral traditions, Henninger argues, the South and its literature have in fact primarily relied on visual characteristics such as skin color, gender, or dress to mark social "place" and identity. From postmodern art gallery to family album, photography in southern culture has both reinforced these cultural prejudices and provided potent counterimages. Henninger analyzes photography’s literary functions in memoir, fiction, screenwriting, and poetry by a wide range of contemporary authors including Dorothy Allison, Ann Beattie, Rosemary Daniell, Julie Dash, Ronlyn Domingue, Josephine Humphreys, Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Anne Tyler, and Alice Walker. As each of these writers distinctively re-envisions traditional constructions of southern womanhood, Henninger shows, she joins the others in challenging the constrictions of "southern woman" and so changing the meaning of southernness itself.

About the Author

Katherine Henninger is assistant professor of American literature at Louisiana State University.
For more information about Katherine Henninger, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Succeeds brilliantly in leading the way for future examiniations of the 'New South.'"--Southern Humanities Review

"Innovative in its hybridity, its interweaving of the visual and the literary."--Journal of Southern History

"Contemporary writing by southern women emerges vividly in Henninger's analysis. . . . [Henninger] joins others in challenging the constrictions of southern women and so changing the meaning of southernness itself."--Tiger Weekly

"From start to finish a notably strong and stimulating contribution to literary and cultural studies of the American South."--Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

“To reveal the power of the visual in the ‘oral’ South, Henninger serves up a feast of texts, photos, and fresh new ideas. Her main course presents the way southern women writers have engaged southern visual culture by writing ‘fictional photographs.’ This book represents what's best about the nouvelle cuisine that is the new southern studies.”--Anne Goodwyn Jones, author of Tomorrow Is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South, 1859-1936

“Interdisciplinarity at its best, Katherine Henninger’s Ordering the Facade applies a concern with cultural and literary history to visual representations of the U.S. South and to fictional photographs by southern women. The satisfying result is an exhilarating realignment of word and image, gender and memory, power and place in reading contemporary southern women’s fiction and a dynamic refocusing of critical attention to the visual legacies of southern culture. Katherine Henninger produces a smart twenty-first century take on reading the South; she reframes the iconography of a dominant male gaze in historical representation with the iconoclastic word work of women seeing and signifying differently.”--Thadious M. Davis, University of Pennsylvania