Kenan Eminent Professor of English
Co-Editor of the Southern Literary Journal
As a writer of fiction, memoir, and literary criticism, I’m most interested in how stories shape us, place us, and expand our vision of the world. Much of my scholarly work has been formed around questions of race and gender, history and memory, place and space. In teaching and writing about the U.S. South, I think of the South as a representational space that authors from within and without the region have molded; I’m interested in how southern writers from the U.S. speak to global events of the contemporary period on matters of community, memory, history, and cultural trauma and their relations to an aesthetics of testimony and interpretation. I enjoy teaching a variety of courses in 20th and 21st century fiction and memoir. Courses characteristically engage literary texts and bodies of theory in conversations around topics such as the role of aesthetics in mourning and memory or the spatial nature of narrative.
In addition to my courses at UNC, I also teach creative writing at the University of New Mexico Taos Writers’ Conference. My two most recent books are a novel, The Queen of Palmyra (HarperCollins, Harper Perennial, 2010), and a memoir, Wishing for Snow (Louisiana State University Press, 2004), both set in my home state of Mississippi. The Queen of Palmyra, set in the summer of 1963 in segregated “Millwood,” is the first-person narrative about a young white girl’s willed, necessary blindness to her father’s racial violence, a blindness that haunts her the rest of her life. For further information about these books, go to http://www.minrosegwin.com/.
My current scholarly project, Mourning Medgar Evers, also focuses on central Mississippi that same summer of 1963. It will be the subject of the Lamar Lectures at Mercer University in the fall of 2010 and published in 2011 by the University of Georgia Press. It brings together imaginative writing about the life and death of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, whose murder in June of that year was the first political assassination of a public figure in the sixties, lighting a powder keg of racial frustration across the country. The book investigates the function of aesthetics in remembering specific events of cultural trauma.
I’ve also done work on gender, space, and reading. I think of reading as a form of dislocation which opens perspective and shifts identity, with powerful consequences for gender, racial, and sexual politics. My Faulkner work includes The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (Beyond) Sexual Difference.
I’m also an editor; I edited A Woman’s Civil War by Cornelia McDonald and was a coeditor of The Literature of the American South, a Norton anthology, in addition to coediting, with Professor Fred Hobson, The Southern Literary Journal.