Richard Bishirjian Reviews The Southern Philosopher: Collected Essays of John William Corrington

Richard Bishirjian recently wrote an in-depth review of the University of North Georgia Press’ book, The Southern Philosopher: The Collected Essays of John William Corrington. This text was edited by one of our own authors, Allen Mendenhall, to help encapsulate Corrington’s accomplishments as both an academic and a philosopher. Bishirjian, much like Allen Mendenhall, found Corrington through academia while translating the concepts Corrington had discussed in his writings for his dissertation. This launched a twelve-year friendship between the two of them before Corrington’s death. During that time, they corresponded through letters and developed a close relationship. Many of their letters can be found in The Southern Philosopher. They discussed many of the concepts that are in this book and even held a seminar together about one of the key themes of Corrington’s work: Gnosticism.

Now, Gnosticism was not the only interest Corrington had. After multiple years of teaching at Loyola University, he pursued law at Tulane University. From there, he learned about the writings of Eric Voegelin, a southern philosopher himself who discusses the religious community of the South. Corrington thought of Voegelin as the one who truly hit the nail on the head on how to examine the shared experiences of religious sects in the South. Through their joint work, Corrington was able to research and better conceptualize the ideas that he had been pondering.

Corrington was also known as a sort of rebel in whatever environment he placed himself in, whether that be as an academic or as a writer. Many of those communities had differing ideals than Corrington, as he wanted to be free of petty academic politics and the narrow-mindedness of other southern literary critics. Through the works of Voegelin and others, he found his own philosophy in politics, historical consciousness, and modern Gnosticism that is free of the confines that his colleagues developed for themselves.

Through all of these complex concepts, Richard Bishirjian weaves an interesting look into some of the concepts that can be found in Corrington’s collections. Corrington said it best that “What my work really represents is the openness, the ambiguity, the vastness of the possibilities of human being in the mode of existence as it realizes itself in the South in my time.” You can find all of this and more as you delve into Bishirijian’s review and The Southern Philosopher.

Allen Mendenhall on Researching “The Southern Philosopher”

We’re honored to have Allen Mendenhall, editor of The Southern Philosopher: Collected Essays of John William Corrington, join us today as he talks about his research process, the help he received, and just what makes John William Corrington so interesting. You can find more by him at the Southern Literary Review and his website.

My interest in John William Corrington began in law school. I went to law school at West Virginia University to study under Jim Elkins, who is well-known in law-and-literature circles and recently had written on Corrington. I read Corrington in Elkins’s classes and at some point, reached out to Corrington’s widow, Joyce, to strike up a conversation about her late husband. Before I knew it, I was staying at Joyce’s home in New Orleans and getting phone calls from Bill’s friends and colleagues. One day, a package arrived in the English department at Auburn University, where I was a doctoral student, and in it were materials that a friend of Corrington’s sent along because he’d heard I was researching Corrington.

Some of Corrington’s other family members refused to talk to me about him. Joyce was always completely forthcoming with me when I asked her what I thought were sensitive questions. She’s not shy. The first time I found out Corrington had been married and divorced before he met and married Joyce, I was concerned about broaching the topic with her. But when I did question Joyce about this period of Corrington’s history, she didn’t miss a beat in explaining who the first wife was and why Bill had divorced.

Joyce showed my wife and me around New Orleans, took us to nice restaurants that only locals knew about, and showed me video footage of her late husband delivering a lecture. I couldn’t have gained the knowledge of Corrington that I now possess if it weren’t for Joyce’s openness and frankness.

I’ve written three books and now edited this one. The Corrington edition was harder to complete than the books I wrote. It took over seven years of work before the book finally reached print. The University of North Georgia Press has been patient with me and excellent to work with during this process.

Corrington was enthralled by the political philosopher Eric Voegelin and undertook multiple scholarly projects involving Voegelin’s complex teachings. Corrington illuminates Voegelin’s writing; in many ways, Corrington is easier to read. His prose, I think, is more accessible than Voegelin’s, and he introduces and describes the dense, esoteric subjects and concepts that characterize Voegelin’s work.

Problematic in our current time and space and political environment is Corrington’s fascination with the Confederacy. I won’t try to explain his positions on that subject here but would encourage readers to investigate for themselves his account of the role of myth and poetry in the narration of Southern history.

It’s interesting to see how Corrington went from writing Beat-style poetry in the 1960s to novels and short stories and then to daytime television scripts and philosophical tracts inspired by Voegelin. His interests and talents were diverse, and his friends and students were loyal. I’ve yet to talk to someone who disliked Corrington.

I think there’s more work to be done on Corrington’s life and thought. By bringing this collection of Corrington’s essays to print, I hope to have laid the groundwork for future scholarship on this fascinating man and his complex ideas about law, history, philosophy, and the humanities. The Southern Philosopher should generate more research about Corrington—and perhaps even get Corrington’s works in the classroom where students of a new generation can become as enamored of him as his own students were in his day.

Dan Leach on “Floods and Fires” in the Southern Literary Review

Dan Leach, a published author with the University of North Georgia Press, just completed his book Floods and Fires. The Southern Literary Review’s Allen Mendenhall, who is also a published author with the University of North Georgia Press, recently interviewed Dan Leach about his book, himself, and his take on the ever-evolving world of the short story.

Though Leach is a two-time published author, his passion was not always in writing short stories. He graduated from Clemson in 2008 with an Education Degree and recently changed to claims adjusting at a large insurance company. He juggles a 9-5 job, a family at home, and mentoring other aspiring writers all while making time to write his own short stories. Though he says, “I just keep showing up and, somehow, the work gets done,” we know that works like his do not appear out of thin air.

Just like other writers, he did not get here without some advice from other experienced individuals. Leach quotes George Singleton and Dale Ray Phillips as being “very generous” with him, going so far as to say they gave him “an MFA through email.” These two individuals helped him take his first steps into writing and continue to coach him today.

Leach and Allen Mendenhall also discuss what makes Floods and Fires such an interesting read. One thing Mendenhall “likes about the collection” is the order of the stories through different narrative styles. As Leach puts it, this choice for the book makes it feel more balanced. He also tells Mendenhall that his favorite story is “Not Home Yet” for the “moments” throughout the story. Leach’s description of the scenes show why this short story is so captivating and immersive.

During the interview, Dan Leach also tells Mendenhall that he believes this is the “moment” for short stories. Whether or not this is true, this is definitely Leach’s moment and a right step into a promising future for his writing. Be sure to check out this interview and Dan’s book Floods and Fires!

Floods and Fires can be bought at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million! You can find him at his website.