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Southern Gothic in Savannah

There's more to Southern Gothic than Greek columns and Romanesque statues.

Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

There’s definitely more to Southern Gothic than Roman statues and Greek columns. For it’s a writing style, or more specifically a genre that overlaps the much broader classification of Southern literature. According to most literary commentary, Southern Gothic originated from the Gothic-styled literature that was produced in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. Both Gothic and its offspring, Southern Gothic, often employ a decaying castle, cathedral or antebellum home as the backdrop for the story.  This setting often becomes symbolic of the moral decay of society that the writer is trying to depict.

Gothic literature has also been extensively satirized in TV and film. If you can relate to the satire in the “Adams Family” or “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, then you should be able to appreciate both the Gothic and Southern Gothic genres.

And for those interested in the literary history of Savannah, they should know that this city plays a pivotal role in the development and expression of the genre. This legacy comes through the prowess of two writers, Flannery O’Connor and John Berendt. O’Connor was born in Georgia and lived for many years in Savannah, a place that was pivotal in the formation of her humorous, ironic and cynical style.

On the other hand, John Berendt is kind of a literary one hit wonder, but oh what a blockbuster of a book was Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil. Born in Syracuse, educated at Harvard and employed in the Big Apple, Mr. Berendt first traveled to Savannah, as a middle-aged man. Over the course of a few years, he penned a novel based on a set of strange and bizarre events that occurred during his time in the city. This book became his big hit and the influence the book had on the city was immense.  With several million copies sold, Berendt put Savannah on the map and helped bring a large influx of visitors estimated in the hundreds of thousands. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “hotel-motel tax revenues rose about twenty-five percent in the two years following publication of the book, and cottage industries related to Midnight in the Garden sprang up like morning glories.” Now that’s impact

Rouge stairway in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia

Rouge stairway in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia

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