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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

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Activities: Author Activities

Katherine Anne Porter - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: What kinds of lives do the people in "Flowering Judas" lead? What clues does the story contain to help readers understand how its characters live?

  2. Context: In her introduction to a 1940 edition of Flowering Judas, Porter wrote that she'd spent much of her life trying "to understand the logic of this majestic and terrible failure of the life of man in the Western World." Consider Porter's statement in light of World War I and World War II. How does "Flowering Judas" seem to reflect that "majestic and terrible failure"?

  3. Context: The setting of "Flowering Judas" (revolutionary Mexico) might challenge students' concept of "southern" literature, yet thematically, the story is very much within the realm of the work of Porter's southern peers. For example, like similar characters in Faulkner's writing, Laura in "Flowering Judas" seems torn between repudiating her past and its traditions and accepting the revolutionary values of the world in which she finds herself. What does such a setting and theme suggest about the meaning of "southern literature" in this period and its dominant preoccupations?

  4. Exploration: In a sense, Porter was as much a fiction as any of her characters; at a young age she changed her name, and throughout her life she lied about her birth date, marriages, education, and work habits. More importantly, she denied she'd been raised in poverty on a Texas dirt farm and claimed instead to be the descendant of a romantically degenerating "white-pillar" family of the Old South. Why do you think Porter lied about her background? How might her lies have changed the way her writing was received in the 1930s and 1940s? What does this suggest about American "literature" and the critical establishment? By way of comparison, you might also consider the fact that William Faulkner changed his name (he added the "u" to his last name) and lied about such things as being wounded in World War I. Why would these writers feel compelled to fictionalize their own lives?

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