John Matthews

Professor, English, College of Arts & Sciences

John Matthews’ research concentrates on American literature, modernist studies, literary theory, and literature of the US South, with special attention to Faulkner.  He has written several books on Faulkner, including The Play of Faulkner’s Language (Cornell UP, 1982), which took a post-structuralist approach to his work, and most recently William Faulkner: Seeing Through the South (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), a study of Faulkner’s engagement with the imagination of Southern place—regional, hemispheric, and global—as a coherent, if variegated project over the course of his career.  As his scholarship became more attentive to the historical ramifications of Faulkner’s fiction, he wrote a series of essays on questions of Southern plantation history, national modernization, and modernist aesthetics in Faulkner.  He will continue to teach and write on Faulkner, with two edited volumes under contract for Cambridge UP (Faulkner in Context and A New Companion to Faulkner).

Currently, John’s main project is a book on the purposeful misrepresentation of the South in US literature, its argument ranging from Poe through Hawthorne and Melville, but principally devoted to modern writing about the South that sought to confront a cultural tradition of disavowing the region’s place in national development: Twain, Jean Toomer, Julia Peterkin, Erskine Caldwell, Willa Cather, Faulkner and others.  Portions of this book have appeared in periodical form, most recently a piece in Philological Quarterly entitled “Willa Cather and The Burden of Southern History.”  The methodological apparatus for this book involves theories of cultural fetishism, drawn from historical, anthropological, psychoanalytic, and ideological accounts of the wide-ranging effect of hiding unwanted knowledge in plain sight.  The historical side of his work over recent years has led to regular interdisciplinary team-teaching with Prof. Nina Silber of Boston University’s Department of History, including graduate credit courses in Southern literature and modern American culture between the world wars, and a graduate seminar in the US South in global context.