So an “indisciplinary research agenda” has been developing among postmodern conservatives over the last couple of years. I don’t have time to flesh it out, but it involves Texas and Arkansas and focuses especially on the status of southern virtue–incuding but not only the relation of southern men to women–these days. Consider MUD, TRUE GRIT, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and TENDER MERCIES. Notice the rural, working-class focus, as well as on the difficulties in being a man in full when all the key relational institutions–beginning with the family–are broken. All contributions to developing this agenda are welcome.
Meanwhile, we can’t forget Flannery O’Connor. We’ve criticized porchers and other placists for lacking realism when it comes to describing the virtues and vices of the South (rural and otherwise) as it actually is these days. Among those descriptive shortcomings is an insufficient appreciation for the fact that southern religion (which is always rural in origin) IS Christian, while so much of liberal Protestantism is not. Here’s O’Connor on “the religion of the South”:
The religion of the South is a do-it-yourself religion, something which I as a Catholic find painful and touching and grimly comic. It’s full of unconscious pride that lands them in all sorts of ridiculous religious predicaments. They have nothing to correct their practical heresies and so they work them out dramatically. If this were merely comic to me, it would be no good, but I accept the same fundamental doctrines of sin and redemption and judgment as they do.
The “working out dramatically,” of course, suggests the great poetic potential of southern religion, as we see in THE APOSTLE and TENDER MERCIES, for example.