During the Cold War, national discourse strove for unity through patriotism and political moderation to face a common enemy. Some authors and intellectuals supported that narrative by casting America’s complicated history with race and poverty as moral rather than merely political problems. Southern Literature, Cold War Culture, and the Making of Modern America examines southern literature and the culture within the United States from the period just before the Cold War through the civil rights movement to show how this literature won a significant place in Cold War culture and shaped the nation through the time of Hillbilly Elegy.
Tackling cultural issues in the country through subtext and metaphor, the works of authors like William Faulkner, Lillian Smith, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, and Walker Percy redefined “South” as much more than a geographical identity within an empire. The “South” has become a racially coded sociopolitical and cultural identity associated with white populist conservatism that breaks geographical boundaries and, as it has in the past, continues to have a disproportionate influence on the nation’s future and values.