Spring 2014 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Ingrao, Peter
Discipline and Number
LIT 3326 Section 001
TR Time 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
Course Title
The Literature of the American South

Description of Course:

“The Savage South and the Poor White”

Often pictured tending a backwoods still or drug lab, in a serpent-handling revival meeting, as an innocent abroad in the "big city," or, less often, as survivor of the zombie apocalypse, southern literature is legion with permutations of the sometimes comedic, sometimes rapacious, but always important poor white. But why is this figure so important to southern literature, and what is its place within the context of southern identity? How has the poor white transformed from a maligned figure from which even sympathetic authors distanced themselves to a figure of transcendence with its own voice occupying a landscape that though “savage” or “hard” is also beloved? What strategies can we employ to see beyond the stereotype? This semester we will engage the poor white using a variety of strategies including class, gender, encounters with modernity, the tension between a religiously-minded South and secular humanism, and the presentation of the poor white within such genres as the gothic and "grit lit."

Required Texts:

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear it Away

Lee Smith, Saving Grace

Daniel Woodrell, Give Us a Kiss

Alden Bell, The Reapers are the Angels

A selection of readings including Twain, Mencken, Burton, McCarthy, and Tom Franklin's and Brian Carpenter’s Grit Lit: A Rough Southern Reader, among others, will be available through e-reserve. The course will also incorporate scenes from documentary film and the film adaptation of As I Lay Dying.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Research essay

Midterm exam

Lead class discussion of a representation of the poor white in a short story or popular culture.


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