Mary Austin’s Southwest

An Anthology of Her Literary Criticism

"If Nationality means anything—and in [the American] case it couldn’t mean race—it must mean the unconscious response of a people to their natural environment."—Mary Austin
Celebrated and controversial author Mary Austin (1866-1934) lived in and wrote about her beloved Southwest, a place that has shaped and been shaped by three distinctive groups: Indian, Spanish, and Anglo. Austin discovered in the Southwest that these cultures blended languages, races, and religions, creating what she believed were unique versions of Catholicism, nature worship, ceremonies, and visions. Those beliefs worked their way through her literary criticism, leading her to ground-breaking ideas of place-based influences, narrative techniques, and dramatic development.

In Mary Austin’s Southwest, editors Blackbird and Nelson shine light on Austin’s work, revealing her to be a significant trailblazer for literary diversity. With thoughtful introductions to selected writings on Austin’s prose, drama, and poetry as well as an annotated checklist of her published Southwestern literary criticism, this collection is a celebration of a rich mixed heritage as expressed through the written word.

Chelsea Blackbird received her master’s degree in English from Sul Ross State University. She writes and works with her husband on a ranch in west Texas.

Barney Nelson is associate professor of English at Sul Ross State University.

Praise and Reviews:

"Many readers are familiar with Mary Austin as a brilliant nature writer, but few are aware of her achievements as a literary critic. Mary Austin’s Southwest reveals Austin’s breadth and keenness as a critic devoted to multiculturalism, gender issues, and the environment years before these became popular academic topics. In compiling and contextualizing Austin’s critical and theoretical essays, Blackbird and Nelson have done a wonderful service for today’s readers."— Scott Slovic, editor, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment