American Studies 430  
The South 
11:00-12:25, T-Th
Spring, 2001
Roger Williams University
Michael R. H. Swanson
Office:  CAS 111
Hours: 9:00-10:00 M, T, Th, F
or by appointment
Phone:  401 254 3230
For Tuesday, February 20


For Thursday, February 22 (George Washington's Birthday)

Read, in The South: A History
Chapter 11: Learning, Letters and Religion. pp. 230 - 253

This chapter casts a most interesting light on intellect and the role of the intellectual in society. There is a tendency to think that philosophy and thinking is free of cultural bias. It is much easier to recognize the cultural bias in other people's thought than to recognize it in our own. In this class we'll be introduced to a class of thinkers whose presuppositions are very different from ours. We need to understand the nature of their ideas and the sources of them. As wrong-headed as some of these arguments are or seem to be, we heed to take them seriously. Southern intellectuals and religious leaders could no more escape Slavery than northern ones could.

Aside from slavery, the most significant impact on intellectual development in the south was the lack of strong urban centers of the type developing in the north. Be aware of the impact of rural culture on such things as the development of education in the region.
The religious character of the South was also set during the half century before the Civil War. Understand the role of the revival and the camp meeting in spreading an Evangelical version of Christianity. Understand as well the advantages the Baptist tradition had in "Christianizing" the south.
From the Internet:
Locate and Print
This is an account of the beginnings of Southern Revivalism in Kentucky about the beginning of the 19th Century.
Camp meetings provided opportunities for intense socializing for people who spent most of their lives in isolation on farmsteads miles from each other or from market towns and hamlets.  Meetings could last several weeks, and, as the illustration to the left shows, could be highly emotional experiences.  Revivalism and the camp meeting tradition still endures.  Modified forms of it can be observed in such instances as the "crusades" of Billy Graham.  (Graham is himself a southerner from Carolina). 

Camp meetings were highly organized, though the high emotional temperature may have disguised that fact.  The plan of the camp at the right demonstrates this.  Too small to read in this reproduction, the benches are divided into male and female sections to either side of the preaching stand.  Cooking fires and tents surround the outside.  To the bottom, behind the preaching stand is the "Negro" section, indicating that racial practices carried over into religious exercises.
Locate and Print
This is an account of the beginnings of Southern Revivalism in Kentucky about the beginning of the 19th Century.

Not all Southerners were believers in revivals.
For a humorous and sceptical view of revivalists and revivalism download and read. Parson John Bullen's Lizards, whch you will find at

Sut Lovingood, the fictitious narrator of this tale can be seen in the drawing at the left.  He represents the "cracker" type we read about last week.

Some of you might find southern humorists a topic worth investigating.



Length: 1-2 Pages, Typed

We've been looking at a number of southern "types" as they have developed in the period before the Civil War: among them, Cavaliers, Yeomen, "Crackers," Slaves, Free Blacks. Birth of A Nation explores and exploits stereotypes related to these social classes. I would like to have to think about this and write a short paper analyzing the stereotypes represented in the film. Focus on two to three which seem to you most vivid. How do these shape popular imagery of the south and the people in it?

Links to a synopsis of the film can be found on the syllabus for last week.