1998: The Christ-Haunted South


The Christ-Haunted South

This symposium explores a topic of both scholarly and practical interest, for its analysis of how religion has shaped Southern culture is not just an ivory-tower matter for artists and intellectuals; it is a topic that has relevance to the world in which we conduct our lives each day. It is our hope that the symposium this year will not only raise pertinent questions about the role of religion in Southern life, but actually will help to clarify the long-lasting and ongoing interplay of Christianity and culture in our region.

Our program, as in years past, again provides an important opportunity for shared inquiry. An outstanding array of academics, theologians, and writers will focus their attention on central issues relating to faith and Southern culture. How has the Southern religious heritage been a vital force informing our culture, including especially the writing of literary artists such as William Faulkner, Flannery O' Connor and Walker Percy? How has Christianity shaped the relationships between the classes, regions, and races of the South? In what ways has organized religion fallen short of its high calling, and how might these shortfalls yet be remedied?


Dr. Wayne Flynt
A lifelong Southerner, Dr. Flynt has taught at Southern institutions most of his life. He received his bachelor's from Howard College, his master's and doctorate from Florida State University. After teaching at Samford University for eight years, Dr. Flynt taught history from 1977 to 1985 at Auburn University in Alabama. He has been a Distinguished University Professor at Auburn since 1990.

Dr. Flynt's research interests include Southern culture and religion, Alabama politics, education reform and poverty

He has written several books, including Poor but Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites; Mine, Mill and Microchip: A Chronicle of Alabama Enterprise; Dixie's Forgotten People: The South's Poor Whites; Cracker Messiah: Governor Sidney J. Catts of Florida; and Duncan Upshaw Fletcher: Dixie's Reluctant Progressive.

Dr. Ralph Wood

A native of East Texas, Dr. Wood graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in English from East Texas State University. He wrote his master's thesis on "The Scandal of Redemption in the Novels of Flannery O'Connor." He took a second master's degree and a doctorate at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His graduate studies centered on the relation of Christian theology to the chief literary texts of the West.

Dr. Wood received the Reid-Doyle Prize for excellence among the junior faculty and the Jon Reinhardt Award for distinguished classroom work at Wake Forest University. He is the first interdisciplinary University Professor at Baylor, teaching in religion, English and George Truett Theological Seminary.

Dr. Wood is editor-at-large of Christian Century, a member of the editorial board for the Flannery O'Connor Bulletin and book review editor for Perspectives in Religious Studies.

Jay Tolson
An award-winning author, Jay Tolson has been editor of The Wilson Quarterly since 1989. His book, Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy, won the Southern Book Award for Non-fiction and the Hugh Holman Award for the best work of criticism and scholarship in 1992-1993.

Tolson has written extensively for newspapers and periodicals, including The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Wall Street Journal. He received his bachelor's in history from Princeton University and a master's in literature from American University.

Dr. Noel Polk

This notable Faulkner critic is a native son of Picayune, Mississippi. He describes his book, Outside the Southern Myth, as an apologia for the huge segment of Southern males and communities that exist outside the stereotype of "beer-drinking, mean-spirited, pickup-driving redneck racist" or "julep-sipping, plantation-owning, kind-hearted, benevolent racist."

Dr. Polk, a Professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, also has written Children of the Dark House: Test and Context in Faulkner and is editor of the Reading Faulkner series and of 11 Faulkner texts for Random House, The Library of America and Vintage International.

He received his bachelor's and master's from Mississippi College and his doctorate from the Univeristy of South Carolina.

Rev. Will Campbell

Will Campbell's book, Brother to a Dragonfly, published in 1977, was described by New York Times as one of that year's best books. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the Lillian Smith Prize.

Campbell, a native of Mississippi but a longtime Tennessee resident, attended Louisiana College and Tulane University. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University, which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, and Yale University Divinity School. The University of the South awarded him a Doctor of Literature degree.

His other novels include The Glad River, winner of the Friends of American Writers Award, The Stem of Jesse, Forty Acres and a Goat, The Convention, Providence, and his most recent publication, And Also With You - Duncan Gray and the American Dilemma.

He was the subject of historian Thomas Connelly's Will Campbell and the Soul of the South and the first recipient of the Alex Haley Award for Distinguished Tennessee Writers.

Dr. Kenny Williams

An English professor at Duke University, Dr. Williams has had several articles published in national journals. Her work also has been published in The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature, and she currently has three works under contract.

Dr. Williams received the Mid-America Award for distinguished contributions to the study of Midwestern literature in 1986. Dr. Williams received her bachelor's from Benedict College, and master's from DePaul University and Univeristy of Pennsylvania, where she also received her doctorate in American Civilization.

Dr. Riggins Earl
Professor of ethics and theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Dr. Earl has travelled extensively in his educational studies, to Africa, Europe, Canada, and the Bahamian Islands. He received his bachelor's at the American Baptist College, a master of divinity and a doctorate from Vanderbilt, and has done post-doctoral work at Harvard and Boston Universities.

Author of Dark Symbols, Obscure Signs: God, Self and Community in the Slave Mind, Dr. Earl also served as editor of To You Who Teach in the Black Church and has several manuscripts being published. He is director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Values in Atlanta, guest editor of Black Church Focus, was associate editor of Christian Educational Informer and former editor of Journal Interdenominational Theological Center.

Dennis Covington

The New York Times Book Review calls Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain, "a book of revelation - brilliant, dire and full of grace."

In describing Salvation on Sand Mountain, Covington's account of his journey into and back out of the world of holiness snake handlers, The Washington Post writes: "Covington journeyed into a place where most of us would fear to tread, and acting on his instinct, faith and heart, he wrote a book that is unmatched in a man's attempt to understand who he is."

Covington teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also the author of the award-winning novels Lizard and Lasso the Moon.

Dr. Greg Garrett

Winner of the 1993's Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize for Fiction for his novella Minuet, Dr. Garrett received his doctorate in English from Oklahoma State University. He is author of 30 short stories in newspapers, magazines, literary journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Recognized by the national literary journal The Double Dealer Redux as a "superbly gifted writer," Dr. Garrett is associate professor of English at Baylor University, where he has been named Outstanding Faculty Member by the Baylor Student Congress and Outstanding Professor by the University's administration.

Dr. Sybil Pittman Estess
Born in Mississippi, Dr. Estess received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University and her doctorate from Syracuse University. She is the author of a book of poetry, Seeing the Desert Green, and has co-edited a book of criticism, Elizabeth Bishop and Her Art. Dr. Estess has published poems in journals such as Shenandoah, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Western Humanities Review and Southern Poetry Review. Her literary criticism has appeared in Modern Poetry Studies, The Southern Review, The Denver Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. Currently, she is completing two manuscripts of her poetry and a textbook on creative writing.

Dr. Estess has taught at the University of Houston, the University of St. Thomas, Rice University and Houston Community College. She now teaches writing courses at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.