By Bridget Conway ’22, Honors Content and Community Manager
Whatever your current perceptions of the South are, Dr. Julia Eichelberger can certainly share a fact about the region that will make you stop for a moment and think. While most people view the South in an admirably positive or a condescendingly negative way, the truth of the matter is that the region’s history is an incredibly mixed story of good and bad that continues evolving to this day. Honors College students are learning all about these juxtapositions in Dr. Eichelberger’s HONS 172: Honors Introduction to Southern Studies course.
The course aims to reveal to students the major trends and transformations in the U.S. south, as well as multiple interpretations of the region’s distinctiveness and significance. In addition to learning how experts have interpreted the region, students analyze cultural artifacts or practices, using their knowledge of the region’s history and culture, theorists’ views of the region, and independent research.
On February 12th, the course welcomed fiddler Ian Gleason and banjo player Fisher Wilson, both CofC alums and members of The Pluff Mud String Band, and enjoyed a lovely mid-afternoon performance and casual discussion on the origins of “old-time” music in the era before radio and commercial recordings. The goal of the band’s visit, in Dr. Eichelberger’s opinion, was to “expose students to the southern cultural influences of old-time string music [and] hear from musicians about the history of string music and the makeup of the genre’s modern community.”
The intimate porch of 9 Green Way was the ideal venue for this performance, as the band members confirmed that “‘old-time’ music is usually played when other people are close by, either dancing to the music or playing together.” Interestingly, this genre of music draws on African musical traditions, including “polyrhythm,” which is a rhythm that makes use of two or more different rhythms simultaneously. The genre also incorporates the use of a banjo, as well as influences from European and English music.
Homework due that day asked students to analyze additional examples of Southern popular music. After The Pluff Mud String Band finished playing, the class went inside and discussed, seminar-style, the songs about which the students had written.
HONS 172: Honors Introduction to Southern Studies is an example of an Honors College interdisciplinary course. Learn more about other unique Honors Courses here. To get a sense of the courses currently available to our students, browse our course listings.