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Course Date: 15 September 2014 to 27 October 2014 (6 weeks)
From small farms to urban neighborhoods, from the region itself to the more distant worlds of the southern diaspora, we discover the stories, music, and art of the American South.
R. Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African
American music, and folklore, is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent
Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the
American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on
folklore. A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Ferris was the founding director
of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at
the University of Mississippi, where he taught for 18 years. He also
taught at Yale University and Jackson State University. A graduate of
Davidson College, he received a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of
The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris
has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the
famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates
working in the fields). He has written or edited
10 books and created 15 documentary films. He co-edited the massive
“Encyclopedia of Southern Culture” (UNC Press, 1989), which was
nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book “The Storied South:
Voices of Writers and Artists” (2013), was published
by the University of North Carolina Press.
Bill Ferris’ films include “Mississippi Blues” (1983), which was
featured at the Cannes Film Festival. He has produced numerous sound
recordings and hosted “Highway 61,” a weekly blues program on
Mississippi Public Radio for nearly a decade. He also has published
his own poetry and short stories.
This course explores the
stories, music, and art of the American South and considers how they serve
as a window on the region’s history and culture. We will see how the region’s
distinctive sense of place defines music and literature in each
generation. From small farms to urban
neighborhoods, from the region itself to more distant worlds of the southern
diaspora, stories, music, and art chronicle places and the people who live
Our course explores the
nature of oral tradition and how its study can provide a methodology for
understanding Southern literature. We
will discuss Southern artists and photographers and will show how the history and traditions of the South influences their work. We
will consider the work of Southern Writers and discuss how they utilize
specific stories, music, and art as a structure for literary forms such as
the novel and the short story. Lastly, we look into the rich history of southern
music and its roots in work chants, fife and drum, and one-strand on the wall
What background is expected for learners in this class?
Some understanding of the history and geography of the American South will be helpful in appreciating the race, class and gender issues that influence the cultural markers we'll be studying. Students may wish to lightly research the Antebellum period, the Civil War, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement to gain more historical context.
What resources will I need for this class?
The course is designed to be self-contained. There are additional readings and film clips that will offer a broader view of the topic, but none of these are required to complete the assignments.
What can I earn from completing this course?
You can earn a Verified Certificate by verifying your work with a risk-free, no obligation Signature Track trial. Payment for Signature Track can be made anytime until the week before the course ends — so you’ll be more certain that you’ll earn your Verified Certificate.
If you choose not to verify your work, you can still participate in the complete course. While your final score will be noted on your course records page, this course will not offer a Statement of Accomplishment.
Week One: Introduction to the American South - Reflecting on geography, the diaspora, the mythic and the global South as ways to approach the contested memory of the region
Week Two: Oral Traditions - Considering the content and form of the stories, toasts, dozens, auctions and religious sermons and what they reveal about Southern Culture
Week Three: Southern Artists - Understanding the distinction between folk art traditions and the high art of the academy with examples of basket-weaving, quilt-making, sculpture, painting, and photography
Week Four: Southern Writers - Examining the lives and works of great Southern writers and looking at how specific stories, music, and art
are referenced and provide structure
for literary forms such as the novel and the short story
Week Five: Roots Music - Exploring southern music and its roots in work
chants, fife and drum, and one-strand on the wall musics
Week Six: The Blues - Focusing on this distinctive form of music, so intimately defined by sense of place, class, race, and tradition
The class will consist of lecture and example videos,
which are between 3 and 8 minutes in length. At the conclusion of each week, there will be a multiple choice quiz. Optional additional readings for each week will be available.
Although the lectures are designed to be self-contained, we recommend (but do not require) that students refer to the books: