Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Charles Reagan Wilson

Second Advisor

Andy Harper

Third Advisor

Adam Gussow

Relational Format



This thesis is an exploration of the life and music of Vic Chesnutt, and it accompanies a documentary film. Both components feature interview excerpts from over 30 hours of film footage with Chesnutt, as interspersed with archival documents of his life, along with dozens of interviews with his family, friends, peers, music writers, and bandmates. Chesnutt's story can only be properly told through the lens of southern culture. He was not just a charter member of an international group, but a southern songwriter whose rural Georgia upbringing was paramount to his work. He has often been compared in music journals to the southern gothic schoolmates of William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers, placing his songs in the context of southern writers. His music emphasizes the language and rituals of the people around him in Georgia, especially Athens, who helped give him such a strong sense of regionalism. A history of the related Athens music scene is another vital component of this thesis. For Chesnutt and the southern gothic writers discussed here, their characters distinguish the South in a certain time and place; through storytelling they find that "peculiar crossroads" of a South steeped in mystery. It is the ultimate goal of this thesis to draw attention to Chesnutt's still obscure work, and place it within the context of writers such as Faulkner and O'Connor.



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