Arts

Emory Professor Explores Paradox Of Atticus Finch In New ‘Biography’

Joseph Crespino is a professor of history at Emory University. His new book is "Atticus Finch: The Biography."
Joseph Crespino is a professor of history at Emory University. His new book is "Atticus Finch: The Biography."
Credit cover image courtesy Basic Books / author photo credit Kay Hinton

It is extraordinary when a fictional character takes on mythic proportions, but that is exactly what happened with the publication of Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the character of Atticus Finch.

Emory University history professor Joseph Crespino has a new book called “Atticus Finch: The Biography — Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon.” It’s a deep dive into a one-time favorite character of Southern literature.

That love was tarnished somewhat with the controversial 2015 publication of Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” set some two decades after the events of “Mockingbird.” The idealistic father figure of Atticus seems to have transformed into a “reactionary, embittered” patriarch.

Crespino said his research on A.C. Lee, Harper’s father, helps readers “understand the paradox of the two Atticuses.”

“Atticus Finch: The Biography” is out now from Basic Books. Crespino presents a free lecture and book signing tonight — that’s Tuesday, May 8 — at 7 at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum