Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Second Advisor

Megan Abbott

Third Advisor

Charles Reagan Wilson

Relational Format



This thesis explores the concept of bestsellers in the twenty-first century, with a particular focus on six novels written by contemporary southern authors. These novels are analyzed through the lens of social consciousness, with attention to how they reflect current social issues, and how they engage with and subvert cultural and literary stereotypes. Bestsellers are books that are widely read, shared and discussed, often because they connect to concerns about identity; this study speculates on the influence of bestsellers on national and regional reader identity, specifically race, gender and class. Chapter I explores feminine roles in Lee Smith's The Last Girls and Jill McCorkle's Life After Life. Chapter II considers the exploitative qualities of religion and capitalism in Ron Rash's Serena and Wiley Cash's A Land More Kind Than Home. Chapter III looks at the tensions between authorship and race in Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Southern bestsellers reflect and shape the interests and concerns of readers, cultural shifts throughout the country, and the identity of the South in the twenty-first century.



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