The Southern Gothic movement in literature brings the atmosphere and sensibilities of the Gothic, a genre originating in late 18th century England, to the American South. As early Gothic writers used the genre in part to criticize what they saw as the moral blindness of the medieval era, so Southern Gothic writers deal with their own past through Gothic tropes. This genre is unusual as a genre in that it is significantly limited to a certain geographical space. Many of the most notable American authors of the 20th century wrote in this tradition, and the genre can be seen in music and film as well.
Southern Gothic literature builds on the traditions of the larger Gothic genre, typically including supernatural elements, mental disease, and the grotesque. Much literature in this genre, however, eschews the supernatural and deals instead with disturbed personalities. It is known for its damaged and delusional characters, such as the heroines of Tennessee Williams' plays. Instead of perpetuating romanticized stereotypes of the Antebellum South, Southern Gothic literature often brings the stock characters of melodrama and Gothic novels to a Southern context in order to make a point about Southern mores.
Southern Gothic literature often deals with the plight of those who are ostracized or oppressed by traditional Southern culture - blacks, women, and gays, for example. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) deals with a clearly innocent black man who is convicted of rape and murdered simply because of his race. Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) reinvents the Southern belle as a pretentious, mentally unstable woman, and his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) portrays the favorite son of a Southern dynasty as a repressed homosexual whose alcoholism threatens his marriage. William Faulkner's frequently anthologized "A Rose for Emily" (1930) brings the recurrent Gothic theme of unrequited love leading to madness to a Southern town in which the disapproving residents narrate in a single voice. Other notable writers in the tradition include Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, and Truman Capote.