Original inroads to understanding the life and works of the celebrated novelist and poet
In The Way We Read James Dickey editors William B. Thesing and Theda Wrede have assembled an outstanding collection of current critical responses to the works of the acclaimed novelist, poet, and teacher, including essays by Dickey's former colleagues at the University of South Carolina and a piece by his most famous student, novelist Pat Conroy. The volume breaks new ground in the application of innovative critical approaches and restores Dickey to his rightful place in the literary canon as a remarkable writer who crafted some of the best poetry and fiction of the twentieth century.
A decade after Dickey's death and thirty-five years after the release of the film version of his famous novel Deliverance, Dickey remains a controversial figure in the American literary landscape. He was an intellectual maverick who was often ahead of his time, and yet he responded intensely, almost obsessively, to his own changing times. Thesing and Wrede argue that, although he appeared to conform to poetic conventions, his writing was a visionary reinterpretation and extension of preexisting traditions. This tension between a poet's intellectual precursors and the radical innovation of his work is the inspiration behind the fresh approaches taken by the contributors in this volume, just as it energized Dickey's own endeavors.
The essays offer original insights through emerging scholarly perspectives as well as through established methods of critique. The contributors address a range of themes in Dickey's works, including gender, religion, humanity's relationship to nature, and the writer's cultural context. This landmark reappraisal of Dickey's legacy offers readers a coherent forum that addresses why his writings remain relevant today, thus restoring and revaluing the rising significance of Dickey's literary achievement for twenty-first-century audiences.
William B. Thesing, a distinguished professor emeritus of English at the University of South Carolina, was a colleague of James Dickey's for two decades. From 2003 to 2008 Thesing served as editor of the James Dickey Newsletter. He is the author or editor of fifteen books, including The London Muse, winner of the 1980 SAMLA Studies Book Award.
Theda Wrede is an assistant professor of English at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. From 2003 to 2006 she was an editorial assistant for the James Dickey Newsletter. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Interdisciplinary Humanities, and elsewhere.
"James Dickey was one of the few truly great poets our country has produced, one whose work, like that of Dickinson and Whitman, is without precedent. He was also a first-rate critic and novelist. Dickey's work has been unjustly neglected of late, so this excellent collection of essays is a much-needed reassessment of his poetry and fiction. Most importantly, The Way We Read James Dickey shows us not only the ways we read Dickey but also why we should read him."—Ron Rash, Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies, Western Carolina University, and author of Serena and Chemistry and Other Stories