Front cover of the Winter 2003-2004 issue of Louisiana Cultural Vistas, featuring Tim Gautreaux. Learn more »
Contemporary Louisiana writer Tim Gautreaux is the author of three novels—The Next Step in the Dance (1998), The Clearing (2003), and The Missing (2009) —as well as two short story collections, Same Place, Same Things (1996) and Welding with Children (1999). Louisiana and Acadian culture in particular play a central role in his fiction, much of which is influenced by Cajun oral tradition. His work frequently features working-class characters facing moral or ethical challenges against the backdrop of Louisiana’s changing physical and cultural landscape. As writer in residence at Southeastern Louisiana University for thirty years, Gautreaux influenced a new generation of Louisiana writers as both a teacher and writer.
Timothy Martin Gautreaux was born in Morgan City, on October 19, 1947 to Minos Lee and Florence Ella Adoue Gautreaux. His father was a tugboat captain, and most of the men in his family worked either in the railroad industry or offshore oilrigs. In 1969, Gautreaux graduated from Nicholls State University in Thibodeaux, with a degree in English literature. He later earned a Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and returned to Louisiana to teach at Southeastern University. While there, he studied with fellow Louisiana writer Walker Percy, whom Gautreaux credits with encouraging him to explore the short story genre after years of writing poetry.
While Gautreaux followed a different path than most of his male relatives, he credits the storytelling traditions of these blue-collar working men for inspiring him to become a writer and shaping his literary style. Often raucous and outrageous but always entertaining, these traditions are evident in Gautreaux’s writing, as is an ecological sensibility born of his love of the Louisiana landscape and waterways. The religion imparted to him by Catholic schools and the culture it permeated also inflects his work, which work often centers on issues of guilt, redemption, and spirituality, both explicit and implicit.
Themes common in Gautreaux’s work include the role of place and tradition in a rapidly transforming Louisiana, the importance of community in Cajun culture, and the possibility of moral and spiritual redemption. As a Catholic regionalist writer concerned with humor, spirituality, and grace, Gautreaux’s work suggests the influence of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. Yet, in his evocation of Cajun life and culture and sharp rendering of unique Louisiana settings, his voice is clear and distinct.
Gautreaux’s work has garnered considerable critical acclaim. His first novel, The Next Step in the Dance, won the Southeastern Booksellers Association’s “Novel of the Year” award in 1999. The short story collection Welding with Children was named a New York Times notable book of 1999. Most recently, the Center for the Book, at the Louisiana State Library, presented him with the 2009 Louisiana Writer Award to honor his outstanding contributions to the state’s literary and intellectual life. Professor emeritus at Southeastern Louisiana University, Gautreaux and his wife, Winborne Howell, make their home near Hammond and in Jefferson, North Carolina.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Wilson, Anthony. "Tim Gautreaux." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published June 1, 2011. http://www.knowla.org/entry.php?rec=656.
Wilson, Anthony. "Tim Gautreaux." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 1 Jun. 2011. Web. 23 May. 2013.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Bauer, Margaret. Understanding Tim Gautreaux. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010.
Levasseur, Jennifer, and Kevin Rabelais. “Tim Gautreaux.” Mississippi Review 27, No. 3 (1999): 19–40.
Major Works of Tim Gautreaux
Same Place, Same Things (1996)
The Next Step in the Dance (1998)
Welding with Children (1999)
The Clearing (2003)
The Missing (2009)