Louis Decimus Rubin Jr. was born into a Jewish family in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 19, 1923. He studied for two years at the College of Charleston, served in the Army during World War II (1939–1945), and earned a BA in history at the University of Richmond. He began his writing career as a journalist for the Associated Press and worked for several newspapers, including the Richmond News-Leader. During graduate coursework at Johns Hopkins University, he studied with C. Vann Woodward (1908–1999), the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian whose work helped shape America's perception of racism and the South. While completing his master's and doctoral degrees at Hopkins, Rubin wrote one of the earliest monographs on the southern writer Thomas Wolfe (Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth, 1955), and coedited, with Robert D. Jacobs, Southern Renascence: The Literature of the Modern South (1953). The latter book has been widely considered the founding text of modern southern studies.
During his term as professor in the English department at Hollins College (1957–1967), he established a nationally recognized creative writing program; he founded the Hollins Critic; attracted such notable American writers in residence as William Golding, Howard Nemerov, and Eudora Welty; and promoted the work of student writers, including Lee Smith and Annie Dillard. At the same time, he wrote several important books on southern literature, including No Place on Earth: Ellen Glasgow, James Branch Cabell, and Richmond-in-Virginia (1959), and he established the Southern Literary Studies series for Louisiana State University Press in 1963.
When Rubin moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967, he pursued a grand design of establishing southern literature as an important field of study within American literature. He cofounded the Southern Literary Journal and the Society for the Study of Southern Literature in 1968. He taught a generation of important southern literary scholars, including Robert Brinkmeyer, Fred Hobson, Barbara Ladd, and Hollins alumnae Lucinda Mackethan and Anne Goodwyn Jones. Meanwhile, he wrote and edited several dozen books on southern literature, including William Elliott Shoots a Bear: Essays on the Southern Literary Imagination (1975); The Wary Fugitives: Four Poets and the South (1978); The Faraway Country: Writers of the Modern South (1963); The American South: Portrait of a Culture (editor, 1980); and The History of Southern Literature (editor, 1985).
In 1982 Rubin and Shannon Ravenel, a Hollins graduate, founded Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, one of the most successful commercial trade publishers outside of New York. Algonquin published the work of a new generation of southern writers, discovering, for example, Clyde Edgerton, Larry Brown, Jill McCorkle, and Kaye Gibbons. Rubin retired from the University of North Carolina in 1989 and from Algonquin in 1991. He has continued to write prolifically, publishing books on boats, trains, baseball, Jewish history, and journalism. In all, he has written or edited more than fifty books and helped shape the course of dozens of young writers' careers.
Rubin's scholarship focuses on the representation of community in the literature of the American South. He describes the South as a society keenly aware of its history, and sees modern southern writers as creating a dialogue between the present and the past. Rubin has been criticized for his early affiliation with the Southern Agrarians, his paternalistic attitudes toward southern culture, and his aversion to literary theory. Yet regardless of these criticisms, his influence on southern literary discourse is immense and, because of the number of authors and scholars he has inspired, it is enduring.
- Southern Renascence: The Literature of the Modern South (coedited with Robert D. Jacobs, 1953)
- Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth (1955)
- No Place on Earth: Ellen Glasgow, James Branch Cabell, and Richmond-in-Virginia (1959)
- The Golden Weather (1961)
- The Faraway Country: Writers of the Modern South (1963)
- The Curious Death of the Novel: Essays in American Literature (1967)
- The Teller in the Tale (1967)
- George W. Cable: The Life and Times of a Southern Heretic (1969)
- The Writer in the South (1972)
- Black Poetry in America: Two Essays in Interpretation (1974)
- William Elliott Shoots a Bear: Essays on the Southern Literary Imagination (1976)
- Virginia: A Bicentennial History (1977)
- The Wary Fugitives: Four Poets and the South (1978)
- The Boll Weevil and the Triple Play (1979)
- The American South: Portrait of a Culture (editor, 1980)
- Surfaces of a Diamond (1981)
- A Gallery of Southerners (1982)
- The History of Southern Literature (1985)
- Before the Game (1988)
- The Edge of the Swamp: A Study in the Literature and Society of the Old South (1989)
- Small Craft Advisory: A Book about the Building of a Boat (1991)
- The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree: A Literary Gallimaufry (1991)
- The Heat of the Sun (1995)
- Babe Ruth's Ghost: And Other Historical and Literary Speculations (1996)
- Seaports of the South: A Journey (1998)
- A Memory of Trains: The Boll Weevil and Others (2000)
- An Honorable Estate: My Time in the Working Press (2001)
November 19, 1923 - Louis Decimus Rubin Jr. is born in Charleston, South Carolina.
1953 - With Robert D. Jacobs, Louis D. Rubin edits Southern Renaissance: The Literature of the Modern South, a book widely considered to be the founding text of modern southern studies.
1955 - Louis D. Rubin writes one of the earliest monographs on Thomas Wolfe, Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth.
1963 - Louis D. Rubin establishes the Southern Literary Studies series for Louisiana State University Press.
1968 - After moving to teach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Louis D. Rubin cofounds the Southern Literary Journal.
1982 - Louis D. Rubin and Shannon Ravenel, a Hollins graduate, found Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Davis, D. A. Louis D. Rubin (1923– ). (2010, November 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Rubin_Louis_D_1923-.
- MLA Citation:
Davis, David A. "Louis D. Rubin (1923– )." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 23 Nov. 2010. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: June 24, 2008 | Last modified: November 23, 2010