Below you will find a list of current course information for Southern Studies.
SST 103 Southern Mythologies and Popular Culture
Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:45 Adam Gussow
This course will introduce students to three familiar versions of the mythic South—the pastoral South, benighted South, and plantation South—that have shaped both native and outsider perceptions of the region for several centuries, exploring and critiquing them through a range of popular investments, including literature, music, theatrical performance, film, television, and music videos. We will also investigate a related cluster of imagery and ideology: the South-as-Western (Smokey and the Bandit, “Old Town Road,” “I Play Chicken With the Train”). One goal of the course, achieved in part by juxtaposing the idealizations and de-idealizations of southern myth with the stubborn facts of southern history, will be a deeper kind of seeing and hearing. Authors, performers, texts, and themes covered in class will include “Sweet Southern Comfort,” Roots, Eliott Gorn on rough and tumble fighting, Forrest Gump, Rissi Palmer and African American investments in country music, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, “Southern Comfort Zone,” Mandingo, Swallow Barn, and “Kickin’ Up Mud.”
ENG 776 “Southern Studies and/in the 21st Century”
This course will ask questions about how and why we study “the South” in the 21st century, taking as its departure point Eddie Glaude’s observation that “the South has the answer to the American riddle.” In the midst of a prolonged health crisis, a crisis in democratic governance, and a crisis centering the need for racial equity and inclusion in the United States, what does “the South” have to teach us and how can we justify studying a place and an idea that has historically nurtured much of our national disunion? And how does “southern literature” operate or fail as a viable parameter of discussion within that context? This class will proceed in three units. We will begin by examining what scholars for the last twenty years have called “New Southern Studies,” tracing the genealogy of that term and distinguishing it from preceding scholarship. What is (or was) “new” about “New Southern Studies”? What blind spots have emerged to frame its limitations? We will sample classic texts that exemplify “old” style Southern Studies, before moving to selections from scholarly works pivotal to defining the newness of “New Southern Studies” or to rebutting it (Romine; Woods, Kreyling, Yaeger, Baker, McPherson, Duck, Richardson, Smith, Bibler, Watson, Greeson, Davis). Next we will examine works of scholarship from the last five years that may or may not position themselves relative to the term, including all or parts of Greeson and Romine, Keywords for Southern Studies (2016); Coffey and Skipper, Navigating Souths (2017); Hinrichsen, Rountree, and Caison, Small Screen Souths (2017); Bone, Where the New World Is (2018); Vernon, Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies (2019); Szczesiul, The Southern Hospitality Myth (2019); Caison, Red States (2020); and Foster, I Don’t Like the Blues (2020). We will conclude by reading selections from a triptych of black Mississippi writers who claim this state as both their creative energy and the energy that frustrates their creativity: Kiese Laymon, Natasha Trethewey, and Jesmyn Ward. We will also enjoy some scholarly dialogue with Professor Duck’s ENG 738 course, “Topics in Film Studies: Space, Race, and Critique,” and watch and discuss one film together. Class requirements will include weekly written responses on a variety of topics, discussion leader responsibilities, and a final essay about a primary text of each student’s choosing, read through the critical framework of the course.
SST 599 The Mississippi Delta: Exploring the South’s South
Tuesdays 4:00-6:30 p.m.
James G. Thomas, Jr.
Mississippi writer Richard Ford once proclaimed that “what the South is to the rest of the country, the Delta is to Mississippi. It’s the South’s South.” This course, “The Mississippi Delta: Exploring the South’s South,” will introduce students to this fabled yet complicated region through engagement with historical accounts, ethnographic fieldwork, memoir, fiction, photography, and documentary film. We will look at the Mississippi Delta through the lenses of slavery, the Jim Crow era, the civil rights movement, and the contemporary South as a way of placing it within the broader context of the state, the region, and the world. We will begin with a concentration of texts focused on the history of the place. We will then investigate race, ethnicity, and social class in the Delta, and we will complete the course with readings on the cultural expressions—such as the blues—that have come to define Mississippi’s most complex and often-mythologized region.