“The past is not dead, in fact, it’s not even past.” - William Faulkner
The American South is often conceptualized as the birthplace of most American culture, a pinnacle of American inequality and the strongest embodiment of systems of oppression, as well as--perhaps counter-intuitively--the birthplace of the values and practices that have critiqued those systems. Racism and civil rights, poverty and music, soul food and violence, slavery and freedom, cotton and blood: these historic themes of the South grapple with contradictions and seek to make sense of a region that seems stuck in time yet constantly in change.
The American South looms largely in American writing and its historical context continues to be rich subject matter to many writers and scholars today. Writers from or fascinated with the South have created some of the most important works in American literary fiction and works of American history. But, why, exactly, are there so many stories to tell about this region of the country? What can examination of historical documentation (both in fiction and non-fiction) tell us that paints a whole picture of the region so influential to American culture?
Students will gain skills through interrogation of a wider scope of canonical U.S. Letters, to familiarize students with a deeper critique of a monolithic Southern narrative. This interdisciplinary program of literature and history will introduce students to some of these notable works but, more importantly, allow students to write about the South themselves. Together we will grapple with what it means to be southern, ask what defines the South (geographically, culturally, and politically), and how to interrogate the effects of regional myths about the South on larger American popular culture. These questions are especially intriguing to ask here in Washington, a place outside of the South but home to many similar conditions of poverty and wealth, urban and rural communities, white and non-white people.
Students will gain experience in different kinds of intensive reading, research, and writing practices, including first-hand, primary source research and learning how to analyze fictional writing, nonfiction historical narratives, and nonfiction historical analysis. We will examine four time periods of the American South:
- Inception of U.S.& American Revolution
- Antebellum Era & Confederacy
- Reconstruction & The “New South”
- Modernity & Jim Crow
Students will be required to produce works of both historical fictional and historical analysis throughout the quarter. Students will complete a final capstone writing project from the research performed over the quarter. This final project, a work of either historical fiction or historical analysis, will be based in research and stand as a student’s opportunity to write their own South.
Course Reference Numbers
creative writing, history, education, literature, and American studies.