“A Race Problem.” Jolene Hubbs on Class, Whiteness, and Southern Literature
From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today?
Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
In the late 19th century, a popular magazine ran a cartoon with what it called “a race problem.” Tensions between black and white Americans in the postwar era? Nope. It was referring to a poor white southerner—shabby, slouching, lazy, and dumb—the kind of good-for-nothing layabout who would bring down the striving white middle class. (Think: Huck Finn’s father Pap.)
In this episode, Jacke talks to author Jolene Hubbs about her new book Class, Whiteness, and Southern Literature, which looks at 20th-century middle-class white anxieties about poor whites—and how authors like Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor worked within and against this tradition. Plus, Hemingway expert Mark Cirino of the One True Podcast joins Jacke to select the last book he will ever read.