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Professor Rénard Harris on blues harmonica

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | August 9, 2017 | No Comment |
Dr. Harris sitting at his desk playing blues harmonica.

Dr. Rénard Harris

In honor of last week’s International Blues Day (August 5), y’all should watch this short video of C of C’s Dr. Rénard Harris–Mississippi native, Teacher Education professor, and C of C Chief Diversity Officer–who is also a skilled blues harmonica player. Plus, did you realize that harmonica, blues, and storytelling can enhance a teacher’s effectiveness? Now you know.



under: Uncategorized

Crossing Faith & Color Lines in the South

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | July 30, 2017 | No Comment |

This post comes from Dr. Matthew Cressler, an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies.

Dr. Cressler with students Julia, Mona, Tanner, Kristen, and Iman at the Center for Civil and Human Rights

This May I had the opportunity to teach a course unlike any I’ve taught before: Interfaith Atlanta Across the Color Line (RELS 298), designed to explore the intersection of religion and race in and around Atlanta, GA. Intense study on a Maymester schedule was followed by travel to Atlanta with an incredible group of com/passionate and hilarious students, making this class one of the best teaching experiences of my life.

This course was partly inspired by a grant the Religious Studies department received two years ago from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, but also by a conversation I had with Haley Hart, a CofC RELS grad who works as the sponsorship coordinator for Atlanta’s Habitat for Humanity. Haley introduced me to the history of interfaith in Atlanta, which had its origins in an interracial evangelical Christian commune founded in the middle of Jim Crow Georgia in 1942 called Koinonia Farm. It turns out interfaith Atlanta was born of an experiment in interracial living. As a religious studies prof with one foot in African American studies, I was hooked!

With the support of a course development grant from Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), I constructed a course that explored different ways of living in the world (religious, racial difference) and different models for social change. W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of “the color line” and IFYC founder Eboo Patel’s “faith line” served as starting points for the class, but the hook, so to speak, was an exploration of contrasting approaches to social change. Interfaith work is often conceived as bridge-building work that unites people from diverse backgrounds around a common goal. Racial justice work, on the other hand, confronts systems of power and disrupts the status quo. Over the course of the Maymester, my students and I wrestled with the question: Do struggles for racial justice conflict with the movement to build bridges across lines of faith (and vice versa)? Are they necessary for each other or necessarily in conflict?

Our examination began in the classroom where we explored the religious and racial landscapes of the twenty-first century United States, different conceptual models for social change, and the faith and color lines that define 2017 Atlanta. Then we hopped in our sweetass minivan and headed to Americus, GA for our first stop: Koinonia Farm. There are far too many stories to tell in one short blog post, so I’ll highlight the three kinds of experiences we had throughout the week.

Thumbs up from Mona–Atlanta Habitat

Service learning: Manual labor in service to Koinonia and an interfaith build for the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. Once we arrived at Koinonia Farm we jumped out of the van and into painting projects, weeding (and weed-whacking), and other farm maintenance. We joined a communal worship organized around a potluck dinner and featuring a minister-less service with a shared sermon. This would be the first of many times people’s preconceived notions would be challenged (this time around what “evangelical Christianity” looks and sounds like). Our group had its own in-built religious diversity – with backgrounds in varying shades of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim – so, needless to say, there were plenty of myths to bust.

Public historical pilgrimage: We visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth place and final resting place, having already read his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” and watched Ava DuVernay’s Selma. We followed this up with a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, a museum designed to have a visceral emotional impact on visitors, immersing them in the sights and sounds of the civil rights era and informing them of ongoing civil and human rights crises around the world.

Interfaith immersion: We spent two days in meetings organized by Interfaith Community Initiatives and led by Jan Swanson, affectionately known as the “godmother of interfaith in Atlanta,” experiencing the religious and racial diversity of the city firsthand. We witnessed worship, shared in meals, and engaged in conversation with Black Catholics, white and South Asian Hindus, Turkish and African American Muslims, white Buddhists, and Reformed Jews. And after our long days trekking from church to masjid to synagogue, the students willingly (excitedly even) gathered to decompress and analyze our experiences. Did I mention they’re the best students a professor could ask for?!!!

Each day ended with the class in conversation. How did the particular organization (or community or institution) we’d visited that day approach social change? Does this organization suggest that racial justice and interfaith work can coexist? I am happy to report that students’ final essays testified to two things: 1) they are not unanimous in their answers to that question (the debate continues), yet 2) they remain all the more invested in changing the world for the better.

You can read a longer version of this post on Dr. Cressler’s own blog.

And, need we add: this course counts towards the minor in Southern Studies!


under: African American Studies, Atlanta, C of C Program in Southern Studies, Courses, Religion in the South, Social Activism in the South, Students, Uncategorized

Summer & Fall 2017 courses: lots of ways to study the South

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | May 1, 2017 | No Comment |

Want to take a course focused on the South? There’s a wide range of upcoming course offerings to choose from. (Here’s more info about each course, including pre-requisites and meeting times.)

Students in SOST 200 learn about piazzas from Dr. Nathaniel Walker

For an interdisciplinary look at the region’s history and culture and a chance to do your own research on a topic of your choice, consider taking Intro to Southern Studies. This interdisciplinary course counts toward the Humanties General Education requirement and is a requirement for the Southern Studies minor, but open to all interested students (prereq=ENGL 110).

Plenty of upcoming courses focus on the region and the Lowcountry:  Society and Culture of Early Charleston (History)  ~  History—Civil War and Reconstruction (History) ~ Southern Politics  (Political Science) ~ Traditional Design and Preservation in Charleston (Art History) ~ Sport in the South  (Communication) ~ Charleston Writers (English) ~ Reading the Lowcountry Landscape (Geography) ~ A People’s History of Charleston and the Civil Rights Movement (Honors) ~ Interfaith Atlanta Across the Color Line (Religious Studies)

You can also learn about the region in courses that don’t have “Southern” or “Charleston” in the title, but that still count towards the Southern Studies minor: Foundations of Education (Education) ~  American Vernacular Art and Material Culture (Art History) ~ African American Literature (English) ~ African American History to 1865 (History) ~ Comparative Slavery in the Americas (History) ~ Marine Geology (Geology) ~ African American Religions (Religious Studies)~ Preservation Planning Studio (Historic Preservation and Community Planning)

Interested in hands-on courses? You might enjoy Gospel Choir or Drawing Charleston.

To declare a minor in Southern Studies, go to the Academic Services tab in My Charleston.

Use the What-If function on DegreeWorks to see how your prior coursework could count towards the minor.

More questions? Want to find out how a minor in Southern Studies could complement your major? Contact the Program Director, Julia Eichelberger, at eichelbergerj@cofc.edu.

Slide from a student research presentation given in Intro to Southern Studies


under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Courses, Students, Uncategorized

This month the African American Studies Book Club is reading and discussing Kindred, by Octavia Butler, a novel that explores life in pre-Civil War Maryland. The program in Southern Studies is happy to be a co-sponsor of this endeavor along with the department of English. Please join us!

The first discussion is Wednesday, February 1, at 6 PM in 9 College Way. On this date, participants will discuss the first 107 pages of the book. On Wednesday, February 22, participants will discuss the remainder of the book (pages 108-264). All interested students and faculty are welcome to attend either or both of these discussions.

One blogger noted that Kindred makes “every other time travel book in the world look as if it’s wimping out.” In it, a character living in California in the 1970s finds herself unwillingly time-traveling back to Maryland in the early 1800s.  The main character, Dana, is a young African American writer who experiences firsthand some of the horrific realities of slavery, all while realizing that the slaveholders and enslaved people she encounters in Maryland are connected to her own family.

Through this novel, Butler informs readers of the realities of American slavery while meditating on how human beings in terrible conditions manage to survive and the choices they must make to do so. It’s both a history lesson and a chance to contemplate what it means to be human and how the past affects the present.

Dr. Conseula Francis

When AAST professor Dr. Mari Crabtree, director of the AAST Book Club, originally selected this month’s book, she had hoped that our discussion would include another AAST colleague, the late, great Professor Conseula Francis, who was the director of the program in African American Studies as well as a member of the English department. Dr. Francis was an Associate Provost from 2015 until she passed away in May 2016 after a brief illness. One of her scholarly publications was a collection of interviews with one of her favorite writers, Octavia Butler. This month as we discuss this book without her, we’ll be thinking of Conseula with sadness, and with much admiration and love.

under: African American Studies, C of C Program in Southern Studies, Events, Faculty, Students
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Writing a Book on Teaching Eudora Welty

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | December 30, 2016 | No Comment |

By C of C English major Matt Woodward ’17.

matt-woodwardDuring the summer of 2016, I worked with Dr. Julia Eichelberger on a forthcoming book entitled Teaching the Works of Eudora Welty: Twenty-First Century Approaches. In this collection of thirty-one essays, Dr. Eichelberger and her co-editor, Dr. Mae Miller Claxton, provide a place for the discussion of approaches to understanding and teaching one of America’s greatest writers: Eudora Welty.

spines-library-of-americaOver the course of the project, I was tasked with assisting Dr. Eichelberger compile resources for the book. I also proofread citations in the manuscript and offered feedback on the book’s introduction and its overall organization.  Of course, this work necessitated a thorough review and discussion of Welty’s works, including a close examination of the interconnectedness of her short stories and novels. In addition, through reviewing the pieces submitted for publication in the book, I gained fascinating new perspectives on how to place Welty’s engrossing narrative voice in a truly modern context.

Among all of the essays reviewed for the project, I was particularly struck by the work of critic Keith Cartwright. Cartwright’s essay, “We Must Have Your History, You Know: African/Soul Survivals, Swallowed Lye, and the Medicine-Journey of ‘A Worn Path,’” offers a fascinating examination of one of Welty’s most vexing and favorite short stories, “A Worn Path.” Cartwright offers a teaching approach to the story that positions a walk down Mississippi’s Natchez Trace as a “medicine story,” akin to the canonized works of Dante and Chaucer. The path of Old Phoenix from her Mississippi home to the city bursts with the vitality of preserved cultural experiences and close attention to the ecological diversity of the region.  Calling attention to Welty’s considerations of African-American traditions, Cartwright’s work offers just one example of the project’s re-envisioning of Welty’s work.pages-of-a-worn-path

Already somewhat of an avid Welty reader before working with Dr. Eichelberger, reviewing and discussing source material with her only enhanced my appreciation for Eudora Welty and Southern Literature more. The essays included in the final version of the project all illuminate Welty’s work as firmly connected to “modern” struggles of regional, racial, gender and political identities. After working with Dr. Eichelberger, any of Welty’s marvelous works, from The Golden Apples series to The Optimist’s Daughter ring with new relevance and power.

As a lifelong resident of the South, I have always tried to be attuned to the ways my home region is depicted in media and especially literature. In the context of the ever-expanding field of Southern Studies, Welty, with the help of critics like Keith Cartwright, can be seen as firmly resisting the bland stereotypes of the fetishized South. Carefully turning her eye towards the internality and, above all, the interconnectedness of Southern life, Welty demands that her readers, Southern or otherwise, leave their preconceptions behind.

This project has granted me a new understanding of the ways Welty, like other more celebrated Southern writers, offers her readers alternative visions and understandings of a region and its people. Through Welty’s fiction, I have arrived at an understanding of the place I call home. A region bursting with complexity, natural beauty, and contradictions. A region maimed by the legacy of history and enlivened by the opportunity for reparation. The South, as proven in Welty’s fiction, exists not as a static backwater, but as a vibrant crossroad of culture.

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Research Projects, Students

Meet the Southern Studies Faculty Advisory Board

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | December 30, 2016 | No Comment |
Advisory Board for C of C’s Program in Southern Studies:  Karen Chandler, Mari Crabtree, Adam Domby, Julia Eichelberger (Program Director),  Tammy Ingram, Gibbs Knotts, Simon Lewis, Scott Peeples


Arts Management professor Karen Chandler has immersed herself in the jazz tradition in Charleston and South Carolina through her work as Co-Founder of The Charleston Jazz Initiative (CJI) and has collaborated extensively with Charleston’s leading jazz performers.

karenchandler2 Some of her publications trace Charleston’s early jazz musicians, including the Jenkins Orphanage Bands, and she has produced Legends, a CD recording of live and studio jazz music with a 22-piece big band. In the past, Dr. Chandler has served as director of the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and Director of the University of Virginia’s African-American Cultural Center, among other appointments. Her expertise in arts management is further reflected on service to numerous editorial and advisory boards from Charleston to Columbia to New York City. As the director of the College’s Arts Management program, she is eager for Arts Management students to take advantage of Southern Studies offerings.


mari crabtreeDr. Mari Crabtree, Department of  African American Studies, teaches courses on major debates in African American Studies, African American music, mass incarceration, and collective memories of racial violence. Her Spring 2016 AAST 340 course, “Race, Violence, and Memory in American History,” counts toward the Southern Studies minor.  In Fall 2016, semester, Dr. Crabtree was featured in an article in Mother Jones and organized a teach-in on campus, “Tools for Navigating Post-Election America.”  Her research includes a book manuscript entitled, “My Soul is a Witness: Lynching and Southern Memory, 1940–1970,” an article on the cultural meaning of ghosts in African American folklore, and a book of intellectual history on critiques of white supremacy.


Dr. Adam Domby is a historian of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the American South.  adamdomby2Among his research interests are Civil War and Reconstruction, Historical Memory, Southern History, and Military History.  Using his expertise on Reconstruction, Dr. Domby is working with a group of faculty and public historians to create a public historical marker for the South Carolina constitutional convention that was held in Charleston in 1868. His current book project focuses on how southerners fought their neighbors in three divided southern communities during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Close examination of the social dynamics of these southern communities reveals new insights into why the Confederacy lost, why Reconstruction failed, and the distinctiveness of southern society, culture, and politics.


Dr. Julia Eichelberger, Professor of English and director of the program in Southern Studies, teaches courses on Southern literature (Spring 2017), postwar American poetry, African American literature, and Charleston writers (Fall 2017). In 2015 she and History professor Tammy Ingram developed the College’s program in Southern Studies and an interdisciplinary course, Introduction to Southern Studies, which she’ll be teaching in 2017. eichelberger-ms-book-festival-booktvHer publications include essays on African American and Southern literature; in 2013 she selected and edited Welty’s unpublished letters in Tell About Night Flowers: Eudora Welty’s Gardening Letters, 1940-1949 (UP of Mississippi) and contributed a chapter to Eudora Welty, Whiteness, and Race (U of Georgia P). She is completing a co-edited volume, Teaching the Works of Eudora Welty: Twenty-First Century Approaches and continues to do research on Welty and on Charleston writers.


tammyingramDr. Tammy Ingram, a History professor, teaches courses on the South since 1865 and on other topics in American history: gender and sexuality, history and film, “The History of Crime in America, “Race and Rebellion,” and more. During 2016-17 she’s at Yale University on a fellowship at the Gilda Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. In 2015 Dr. Ingram partnered with Julia Eichelberger to develop the College’s minor in Southern Studies and its new introductory course, Southern Studies 200, which she is looking forward to teaching when she returns to C of C. tammyingramdixiehighwayDr. Ingram’s award-winning book Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930 (UNC Press, 2014) explores the construction of the nation’s first interstate highway system. Her new book project is The Wickedest City in America: Sex, Race, and Organized Crime in the Jim Crow South, examining intersections among criminal enterprise, government corruption, challenges to the sexual and racial order, and ideas about modernization and urbanization in the New South. Dr. Ingram has contributed essays and op-eds to publications such as H-Net, Like the Dew, the Huffington Post, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.



Gibbs Knotts joined the Department of Political Science as Department Chair in 2012. He teaches undergraduate courses in American politics, including one on Southern politics, and graduate courses in the public administration program. gibbsknottsbookcoverHe’s published scholarly essays on southern politics and co-edited The New Politics of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press, 2008). His new co-authored book is The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). He also comments on politics for local, regional, and national media such as CNN and the Huffington Post.


lewis-bannerProfessor Simon Lewis has been teaching courses in African and Third World Literature at the College of Charleston since 1996. He is director of the African Studies program, interim director of the African American Studies program, an associate director of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program, and editor of the literary journal Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing.


He’s written and edited several books, including British and African Literature in Transnational Context (UP of Florida, 2011). In 2013 he convened the 39th annual conference of the African Literature Association with the theme “Literature, Liberation, and the Law”  and co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, devoted to 21st-century African literature.


scottpeeplespoeinlowcountry2sp3Scott Peeples, Professor of English, teaches courses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature, including a recent course on American Gothic literature. He looks forward to teaching Southern Studies 200 after completing his term of service as English Department Chair. The former editor of the journal Poe Studies, Dr. Peeples has published two books on Edgar Allan Poe and many essays on nineteenth-century American literature.  Two essays focused on Lowcountry figures are “Love and Theft in the Carolina Lowcountry” (Arizona Quarterly 60.2) and “Unburied Treasure: Edgar Allan Poe in the South Carolina Lowcountry,” with photographs by Michelle Van Parys, in Southern Cultures 22.2 (2016): 5-22.

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Faculty


Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | December 30, 2016 | No Comment |

Study (v.)  1. 
To apply oneself to the acquisition of knowledge. 2. To take under consideration; to think about. 3. To have any interest in or concern for. Often used in negative constructions: I ain’t studying you = I’m not paying attention to you, I don’t care about you; I ain’t gonna study war no more = I will not practice warfare any more. [According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, this usage has occurred often in the South.]


Lots of us at the College of Charleston are studying the South.  We care about the region. We’re paying close attention to what it has been and what it may become. Our study takes us beyond simplistic stereotypes–both positive and negative–and allows us to explore the region in all its complexity and diversity.

Our courses and research projects analyze the stories Southerners tell about themselves and the stories that others tell about the South. We’re concerned about Southern ecosystems, about the region’s persistent poverty and systemic racism, its industries and infrastructure. We’re paying attention to what this region shares with other parts of the world that scholars are calling “the global south.”

We’re digging deep into Southern literature, history, politics, religious traditions; we’re studying Southern art and architecture, drama, film, newspapers and magazines, musical traditions; we’re analyzing Southern racial and ethnic identities, gender and sexuality, families and community rituals, tourism, foodways, and more.

There’s lots of studying to do around here.

Peacock studying the roofline, Middleton Gardens

Peacock studying the roofline, Middleton Gardens

The Program in Southern Studies resides in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies


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