Amazon phrased it well. “The job of regional literature is twofold: to explore and confront the culture from within, and to help define that culture for outsiders. Taken together, the two centuries of Ozarks literature collected in this ambitious anthology do just that. The fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama presented in The Literature of the Ozarks complicate assumptions about backwoods ignorance, debunk the pastoral myth, expand on the meaning of wilderness, and position the Ozarks as a crossroads of human experience with meaningful ties to national literary movements.
Among the authors presented here are an Osage priest, an early explorer from New York, a native-born farm wife, African American writers who protested attacks on their communities, a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, and an art history professor who created a fictional town and a postmodern parody of the region’s stereotypes.” In total, the book presents work from a diverse group of 41 authors.
Howerton said, “I attempt to define the Ozarks as a geographical and cultural place, to define Ozarks literature, and to identify several trends and themes that run through the body of Ozarks literature." He further noted, “This is not the greatest hits album but rather an organized and critical survey that presents the ugly, the bad, the good and the great literature of the region. The Ozarks and its literature are often not taken seriously, and this anthology is intended to be a beginning point of a focused, ordered, and critical study, the type of study that has been granted to literature of other American regions." "Readers will be introduced to several writers and themes they may be unfamiliar with and they will be prompted to think in new ways about the regional literature they are familiar with."
"In most instances, I offer no judgment of the text's literary value or of its other strengths or weaknesses," Howerton said. "Other than correcting a few obvious typographical errors, I reproduce them as they originally appeared. All innovative dialect and intentional misspellings were reproduced."
Howerton said when he began the project, he believed there would be relatively little Ozarks based literature, but he soon learned there is a large and diverse body of writing about this region. Howerton said this story needs to be told because Ozarks literature has generally been omitted from the study of American literature history.
Howerton said the Ozarks is a small corner of the world, but just like every other place, it is a crossroads of experience, and all places and people should be taken seriously in our shrinking world.
Howerton will be speaking Sunday, August 18 at 2 p.m. at Hobbs State Park Conservation Area Visitor Center. Admission is free and all are welcome.
This presentation is a continuation of the Friends of Hobbs Speaker’s Series. For more information on Hobbs State Park programs, trails, picnicking, or meeting room rentals: Call: 479-789-5000