On Harper Lee

Essays and Reflections

  • Author(s): Hall Petry, Alice ed.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2008-02-28
  • Status: Active
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On Harper Lee is a compilation of everything you wanted to know about one of the greatest writers ever.” —Bookwoman/Bookman

“Teachers and scholars will pick up new ideas here, as I did, and will find them well argued and documented appropriately. On Harper Lee will be a godsend to students who need sources for their research papers.” —Merrill Skaggs, Baldwin Professor of Humanities, Drew University

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of the most enduring works of southern fiction ever written. Although a literary phenomenon-tens of millions of copies sold worldwide-there is surprisingly little secondary literature on Lee and her only novel. On Harper Lee: Essays and Reflections is the first collection of original essays on the author and her magnum opus.

On Harper Lee is an eclectic combination of academic and familiar essays. John Carlos Rowe discusses economic issues in the novel; Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin looks at Lee’s handling of humor; Robert Butler examines the novel within the context of Christian religious allegory; Jean Frantz Blackall traces the similarities between To Kill a Mockingbird and the novels of Lee’s favorite author, Jane Austen; and Kathryn Lee Seidel examines how the character of Scout comes to approximate the ideals of Stoicism embodied in her father, Atticus Finch.

In what is perhaps the most controversial chapter in the collection, Laura Fine examines how To Kill a Mockingbird follows the pattern of lesbian coming-of-age fiction, arguing that the subtext “is the drama of Scout herself, of her conflicted private hopes to be accepted as an outsider.” Likewise controversial Lesley Marx recounts the reaction to Lee’s novel in her native South Africa. Because Mockingbird holds such tremendous personal appeal for so many readers, Petry has included three familiar essays by noted writers Doris Betts, Gerald Early, and Nichelle D. Tramble.

Written for scholars as well as general readers, On Harper Lee is an accessible collection on one of America’s most important novels and its often enigmatic creator.

Alice Hall Petry is professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. She is the author of A Genius in His Way: The Art of Cable’s Old Creole Days and Understanding Anne Tyler, and the editor of Critical Essays on Kate Chopin.