From new publications to job news to paper prizes and lots of conference presentations, Southern Studies alumni and current students are making plenty of news as scholars. The publication of a new book by alumnus Jay Langdale (MA 1996) stands out as especially newsworthy. The ideas for Superfluous Southerners: Cultural Conservatism in the South, 1920–1990, published in late 2012 by the University of Missouri Press, began in Jay’s thesis work in Southern Studies and continued as part of his history PhD dissertation at the University of Florida. Jay teaches history and is coordinator of the honors program at Andrew College in Cuthbert, Georgia, near where he and Jennifer Bryant Langdale (MA 1995) live in Eufaula, Alabama.
In fall 2012 Maarten Zwiers (MA 2007) successfully defended his dissertation, “James Eastland and the Shadow of Southern Democrats,” at the University of Groningen. Maarten began studying Eastland while an MA student working in the Eastland Papers in Special Collections at the J.D. Williams Library. Maarten is teaching contemporary history at Groningen. Pete Slade (MA 1999), who teaches in the religion department at Ashland College, received news that a book he coedited on the work of Mississippi activist John Perkins will be published in 2013.
Jimmy Thomas (MA 2007) published a chapter, “Mississippi Mahjar: The Lebanese Immigration Experience in the Mississippi Delta,” in Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi, a 2012 collection edited by Shana Walton and Barbara Carpenter. Among academic news in the past year or two, Molly McGehee (MA 2000) received notice that she has received tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. Robin Ferris (MA 2001) teaches history in a new position at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, and Rob Hawkins (MA 2005) is in the history department at Bradley University. Franky Abbott (MA 2006) has a new position at the Alabama Digital Humanities Center at the University of Alabama. Bert Way (MA 1999) teaches history at Kennesaw State University, and Amy Clukey (BA 2002) teaches English at the University of Louisville. Several Southern Studies alumni teach from situations other than conventional faculty positions. For example, SFA oral historian Amy Evans (MA 2002) teaches a workshop on foodways documentary fieldwork at the University of Mississippi every summer, and Mary Amelia Taylor (MA 2011), marketing/web communications specialist at Judson College, teaches a required course called Women in Society. Pursuing his dissertation on Cherokee history at the University of Georgia, Josh Haynes (MA 2001) presented papers at recent meetings of the Southern Historical Association and the Trail of Tears Association in Georgia.
Comprehensive exams mark turning points in academic life that only people who take them can understand. Alan Pike (MA 2009) and Ben Gilstrap (MA 2009) have recently finished their exams at Emory and the University of Mississippi, and Elizabeth Oliphant (BA 2008) at Pittsburgh, I’Nasah Crockett (MA 2009) at Vanderbilt, Xaris Martinez (MA 2011) at the University of North Carolina, Keri Edwards (MA 2012) at the University of Mississippi, Cathryn Stout (MA 2011) at St. Louis University, and Teresa Parker Farris (MA 2005) at Tulane are among the Southern Studies alumni taking or preparing for their exams. Alan Pike is one of several University of Mississippi alums who have worked for the journal Southern Spaces at Emory.
At least two current Southern Studies undergraduate majors won attention in 2012 through their academic work on blues issues. A paper by Neal McMillin, “Sexuality and the Blues: Comparison of B.B. King’s Autobiography Blues All around Me and Eugene Redmond’s poem ‘Double Clutch Lover’” won the university’s award for the best nonfiction essay in the Southern Literary Festival Creative Writing Contest, and he will present the paper at the Southern Literary Festival in Columbus, Georgia. Yakeo Takada was a semifinalist for the Muhammad Ali Award for Writing on Ethics for a paper on copyright issues and the blues.
The 2013 Southern American Studies Association program in Charleston featured papers by seven Southern Studies MA students, plus one by an alum. Papers, many of them part of Southern Studies MA theses, included Michelle Bright’s “The Owlcar Named Non-Normative Desire: Tennessee Williams’ Use of Queer Birds to Expand the Boundaries of Freedom,” Kaitlyn Hodges’s “With Liberty and Justice for All: The Problems of United States Citizenship for Native Americans,” Jillian McClure’s “James Meredith or ‘Forevermore’: The University of Mississippi’s Civil Rights Memorial, 1995–2011,” Madelyn Duffey’s “From Coronation to Cornyation: Kings, ‘Queens,’ and Royalty in Fiesta San Antonio,” Steven Saunders’ “The New ‘American’ Gothic: The South in the X-Files,” Joseph Thompson’s “Cyber Rebels: Civil War Memory and Conservative Politics on the Internet,” and Mel Lasseter’s, “‘We Are Not Your Savages’: Insider and Outsider Definitions of Liberty in Justified’s Harlan County.” Alumna Amy Schmidt (MA 2007), a University of Arkansas PhD in English now teaching at Lyon College, is giving a paper entitled “‘That Story Will Get You’: Neo-slave Narratives, National Myths, and Legacies of Global Exploitation.”
Several second-year Southern Studies students, including Chelsea Wright and Meghan Holmes, are making presentations at the Center’s Brown Bag series in the spring, and some students and recent alumni, including Jesse Wright (MA 2010), Tyler Keith (MA 2011), and Bingo Gunter (MA 2011), will be presenting material at the Center’s Music of the South Conference in April.
Three current graduate students are giving academic papers based on foodways scholarship.
Paige Prather will be presenting her work on food justice in the Vietnamese American community of New Orleans East at the Global Gulf Conference at Tulane in February. Erin Scott shares her paper “Big and Bright: The Food of the State Fair of Texas” at the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque in February, and Roy Button presents his paper on urban farming at the Annual Meeting of the Agricultural History Society in Banff, Alberta, Canada, in June.