MICHAEL R. H. SWANSON Ph. D
OFFICE: Feinstein College 111
|ROGER WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY||
Hours: M, T, Th, F 9:00-10:00
Or By Appointment
This book tries to answer two questions: What was and is the American South? What was and is a southerner? The answers to these questions depend largely on where and when they are asked. The answers are easier and clearer at some times than at others. The answer to the question about southern identity is harder and less clear now than at any time since the mid-eighteenth century. Still, the South endures. It endures in part because not even a flood of changes has washed away critical connections between the past and the present in the South.
As the South disappears in demographic, economic, and political terms, there seems to be a corresponding effort to rediscover and revivify at least certain components of the southern way of life. Opinion molders sense the popular concern, and thus symposia, books, clothing, musical fads, and even college curricula--witness the proliferation of "southern institutes"-- speak to that concern. In a very real sense, southerners did not exist until about 1819, when they began to perceive themselves as an identifiable group. Th underlying socioeconomic factors that gave substance to the perception existed for more than a century before the perception arose. Self-identification as southern was the essence of southernness, and that perception has acquired a life of its own, in large part independent of material reality. Southernness is now almost an intellectual construct, "the flesh made word,"....Having a distinctiveness to lose makes possible a recognition of loss, and that triggers a process of retrospection and nostalgia that bodes well to keep the south alive and thriving. The South will continue to exist, if only by an act of will. After all,...they aren't having symposia in Phoenix to discuss the everlasting West.Texts:John Boles, The Difficulty of Consensus on the South
Cooper, William J., Jr, and Terrill, Thomas E.
The American South: A History Second Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996
Escott, Paul D. Et al.
Major Problems in the History of the American South, Vol. II. The New South
Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1999
Jones, Suzanne W., ed.
Growing Up in the South: An Anthology of Modern Southern Literature
New York: Penguin-Putnam, Mentor Division, 1991
Five films will be shown as a part of the University's Penny Arcade Series. These will take place on Tuesday nights in CAS 129. Attendance is required and there will be written assignments based on the films.
|February 13||"Birth of a nation" (1915)||http://www.filmsite.org/birt.html|
|February 27||"Gone With The Wind" (1939)||http://www.franklymydear.com/history/|
|March 27||"To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)||http://www.filmsite.org/toki.html|
|April 10||"Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)||http://www.flickfilosopher.com/oscars/bestpix/drivingmissdaisy.html|
|May 1||"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997)||http://goodandevil.warnerbros.com/|
South is one of a group of American Studies courses which explore regional
differences in the American National Character. The quotes with which this
handout begins are taken from two of the required texts for this course,
and they pretty well summarize the concerns which will occupy us the next
14 weeks. This is a new
course. It will be very much
a work in progress across the course of the semester. While I can give
a general outline of what we'll be doing now, be warned that I'm reserving
the right to make changes as they seem necessary. Those who feel uncomfortable
with this kind of approach will want to consider taking a different class.
The course will divide itself into three
unequal parts. We will begin with a short introductory section, in which
we will explore a number of images of Southern Culture. We'll use a series
of short stories from the Jones anthology, a couple of interpretive essays
from Major Problems in the
History of the American South, and the "Prologue" to The
American South: A History. We will continue to explore these images
through the five movies which are an integral part of this course, and
additional delvings into the Jones Anthology.
The central section of the course will
be a short survey of the Ante-Bellum South, using selected chapters from The
American South. Parts one and two should be completed by the middle
of the term.
Part three will investigate selected aspects
of the South since Reconstruction, using Major
Problems and The American
South as the principal sources for investigation. This will occupy
us for the remainder of the semester.
1. Analyses of the films. Approximately 20% of Final Grade
I'm asking for four short (1-2 page, typed) interpretive essays on the films required for this course. Do all five, and I'll grade the four best. I'll distribute further instructions about this project shortly before we see "Birth of a Nation," but generally I'm looking for your understanding of the images of Southern Culture each film portrays. You will note that the films are presented in chronological order and we'll be looking at how portrayals have changed across the years. We will want to see what is transient and what is enduring in images of Southern character.2. Midterm Exam (take-home, essay format) 30% of Final Grade
This exam will cover issues related to the pre-Civil War South3. Project 20% of Final Grade
I'm still in the process of thinking this through. Generally speaking, the project will center on one of the "Major Problems" presented in the text. Persons will be able to choose which problem they wish to investigate. What I haven't decided yet is whether to make these projects collaborative or individual, and what format they should take (papers, presentations, or some combination of the two). I will entertain suggestions from members of the class before I make my final decision. Whatever form the project takes it will encourage you to move beyond the materials in the texts using materials available through the Internet.4. Final Exam (perhaps take-home, perhaps in class... but essay either way) 25% of Final Grade.
There will be a choice of general questions, any of which will require you to synthesize what you've read, incorporating your own judgement and evaluation.5. Intangibles 5% of Final Grade
I may use an occasional brief quiz as a way to reward those who are faithful in their work (see attendance policy below).
I do not require attendance. I do require you to keep current with what is going on in the class. I reserve the right to do spot evaluations of class participation/preparedness and reward people on that basis. I will be passing out assignment sheets weekly.... eventually, I hope to post these on a class website I'm developing. Whether in electronic form or hard copy you are responsible for information I post or distribute. If you miss a class e-mail me or see me during office hours.
Initial Assignment. For Thursday, January 25
Read, in The American South, "Prologue" xxi-xxvii
in Major Problems, "Continuity of Southern History" (Cash) 1-4
"Quest for a Central Theme" (Smiley) 8-18
"The Difficulty of Consensus in the South" (Boles) 19-28