Dive deep into Southern Studies

In addition to exploring the history and culture of the U.S. South, students who complete the major in Southern Studies learn to:

  • Find information
  • Think creatively
  • Write critically
  • Understand multifaceted problems.

Recent students who concentrated in Southern Studies have gone on to careers in journalism, law, medicine, and historic preservation and to graduate study at Columbia University, University of Mississippi, University of South Carolina, and University of North Carolina.

Recent Southern Studies theses

Catherine Roe (2011), “Staging Race: The Role of Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway in 1935, and it challenged traditional conventions of American folk opera. George Gershwin adapted DuBose Heyward’s novella, Porgy, into musical form, and the deliberate choices behind the adaptations of Porgy from novella to play and then to folk opera and the messages conveyed between these modes of culture provide commentary on race and demonstrate the power of translating text word to the stage. These considerations of transitioning between art forms, differing reactions to those forms, and Charleston as the setting yield challenging and distinctive implications about race relations and the American South, as well as how their interactions can be interpreted.

Carl V. Lewis (2011), “Transcending the ‘Surface Froth’: Atlanta’s Newspaper Coverage of the 1960 Sit-ins”

Perhaps the single most important news event to take place in the Atlanta civil rights movement was the student sit-ins of downtown department store lunch-counters in the fall of 1960. Over the course a three-day period between October 19 and October 22, police arrested more than 120 students from Atlanta’s historically black colleges for staging protests against the city’s segregated dining conditions, among their ranks including prominent national leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lonnie King. The arrests garnered national media attention, eventually leading Mayor William B. Hartsfield to reach a truce with students that he would personally ensure city-wide desegregation if they would immediately halt the demonstrations. This thesis analyzes coverage of the sit-ins in Atlanta’s two most widely-read broadsheets, the white-owned Atlanta Constitution and the black-owned Daily World, to demonstrate the Constitution’s significant failures in reporting the story in its news pages. While the Constitution and The Daily World adopted remarkably similar editorial stances opposing the sit-ins, the two newspapers departed dramatically in terms of how they covered the story as a breaking news event.

Jay Hood (2010), “The Modern Southern Chronotope and the End of the Southern Epic”

A civilization that has undergone a drastic fall, such as the post-Civil War South, often conceives of a past that belonged to mono-dimensionally perfect ancestors and envisions a future that rediscovers the lost values of this golden age or that rights the wrongs of the past. After the Civil War, the white southern conceptualization of time and space, the chronotope, mythologized the Lost Cause, and the black southern chronotope mythogized emancipation narratives. Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome deconstruct this chronotope, replacing it with a far more complex understanding of time, space, and the relationship of the individual to their chronotope.

Eleta Andrews (2009),”Lillian Smith: Strange Fruit and Spirituality”

Lillian Smith could not grapple with the glaring irony that most members of lynch mobs in the American South were practicing Protestants. While Smith was raised Protestant, she became agnostic in her young adult life. But she returned to Christianity in her mid-fifties on her own terms by understanding God and God’s place in the social strata. Smith’s novels, reviews, and interviews in the 1930s-1950s exhibit her quiet spirituality on the subjects of race, religion, and responsibility. Smith’s theology of communal responsibility is a strong theme in her famous novel, Strange Fruit. Her illustration of interracial love is a device for her novel’s greater Oxfordintention: to explore the many connections in the human experience by suggesting a relationship that defies social mores.

Eva Walton (2009), “‘Some Make You Want to Dance Your Way to Freedom’: Guy Carawan and the Development of Freedom Songs”

Freedom songs played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, but they did not develop spontaneously. Guy Carawan, a white sociologist from California, introduced freedom songs to the movement, and it was through a cooperative relationship between him and civil rights leaders that the movement would come to “sing for freedom.” Guided by his experiences in the People’s Songs Movement of the 1940s and the legacy of “folk music [as] an important resource for democratic movements” that Zilphia Horton practiced at the Highlander Folk School, Carawan was able to serve as the catalyst that challenged the young leaders of the Nashville sit-ins, and later activists from across the South, to consider their folk songs differently—as agents for change in their own movement.

Class Research Projects

Southern Foodways: The course website for Dr. David A. Davis’s southern foodways class features student blogs, critical recipes, and oral histories.

Civil Rights Memory: An online student-generated museum developing exhibits on the grassroots Civil Rights Movement in the Middle Georgia area.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Literature and Culture: A student created reference on topics and scholarship in Southern Studies.

Academic Conferences

Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha: Annual conference of Faulkner scholars in Oxford, Mississippi, sponsored by the University of Mississippi.

Society for the Study of Southern Literature: An organization dedicated to scholarship on writings and writers of the American South hosts a biannual conference.

South Atlantic Modern Language Association: The South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) is an organization of teachers, scholars, and graduate students dedicated to the advancement of teaching and literary and linguistic scholarship in the modern languages.

Southern Historical Association: The Southern Historical Association’s objectives are the promotion of interest and research in southern history, the collection and preservation of the South’s historical records, and the encouragement of state and local historical societies in the South. As a secondary purpose the Association fosters the teaching and study of all areas of history in the South.