Bryan Giemza’s “Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South” Available from LSU Press
New book includes never-before-seen documents, including correspondence of Cormac McCarthy, Anne Rice and Valerie Sayers
BATON ROUGE – In “Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South,” now available from LSU Press, Bryan Giemza retrieves a missing chapter of Irish Catholic heritage by canvassing the literature of American Irish writers from the U.S. South.
From the first Irish American novel, published in Winchester, Va., in 1817, Giemza investigates 19th-century writers contending with the turbulence of their time – writers influenced by both American and Irish revolutions. Additionally, he considers dramatists and propagandists of the Civil War and Lost Cause memoirists who emerged in its wake. Some familiar names arise in an Irish context, including Joel Chandler Harris and Kate (O’Flaherty) Chopin. Giemza also examines the works of 20th-century writers, such as Margaret Mitchell, John Kennedy Toole, and Pat Conroy. For each author, Giemza traces how Catholicism influenced faith and ethnic identity.
Giemza draws on many never-before-seen documents, including authorized material from the correspondence of Cormac McCarthy, interviews from the Irish community of Flannery O’Connor’s native Savannah, Ga., and Giemza’s own correspondence with writers such as Valerie Sayers and Anne Rice. This lively history prompts a new understanding of how the Irish in the region helped invent a regional mythos, an enduring literature, and a national image.
Giemza is the editor of “Rethinking the Irish in the American South: Beyond Rounders and Reelers,” coauthor of “Poet of the Lost Cause: A Life of Father Ryan” and assistant editor of “Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary.” He teaches American literature at Randolph-Macon College.