Southern Studies at the UA Department of American Studies is Alive and Well

November 21, 2017

Please see the letter below by Professor Stacy Morgan. It was submitted to the Crimson White newspaper in response to the Nov. 15 article by Christina Ausley, “Popular southern studies course faces uncertain future.”

To the Editors,

I am writing in response to the November 15 Crimson White article by Christina Ausley entitled “Popular southern studies course faces uncertain future.”  Having never met Ms. Ausley, I do not know whether the reporter’s intentions were honest concern for the presumed disappearance of a beloved course or the pursuit of “clicks” by adopting a deliberately sensationalistic angle.  What I do know is that the title and content of the article create a very misleading impression of the Department of American Studies.  What is perhaps most frustrating is that had the reporter followed even the most basic of journalistic protocols by inquiring of any permanent member of the American Studies faculty or the department’s interim chair, Tom Wolfe, she easily could have corrected the mistaken impression that the fate of our “Introduction to Southern Studies” course is “uncertain.”  It is not.  Dr. Jolene Hubbs, the tenured faculty member who developed the course, was already slated to teach the course again in the fall 2018 semester.  (Simply because a given course is not offered for one semester does not indicate that the course is being removed from the curriculum.  Again, any permanent faculty member could have clarified that fact.)  This course remains a regular part of our curriculum and to print otherwise without asking any permanent faculty members for clarity on this issue is extremely sloppy journalism at best.

 

I have been a member of the faculty in the Department of American Studies since the fall of 2001.  Since that time, Southern Studies has always been a strength of our departmental curriculum; indeed, it is a factor that attracts some of the graduate students who enroll in our M.A. program and some of our new undergraduate majors each year.  Under various titles, “Introduction to Southern Studies” has long been one staple in this regard and we never have had any intent for it to be otherwise.  Courses such as Dr. Hubbs’s “Women in the South,” Dr. Ellen Spears’s “Landscapes of the South,” and my own “African American Folk Art” are among the other regular curricular offerings that adopt a specifically Southern focus.

 

Unfortunately, Ms. Ausley’s reckless brand of reporting has left those of us in the department now spending time trying to squash wild rumors stemming from this article’s ill-informed framing.  Lost in the shuffle, I fear, is what otherwise would have been a insightful profile of our instructor Jon Payne’s approaches to engaging students of wide-ranging backgrounds in a rethinking of Southern stereotypes that is simultaneously challenging and open to diverse points of view.  In these respects, Jon’s teaching represents much of what students find appealing about our interdisciplinary curriculum.  Contrary to the impression left by this Crimson Whitearticle, “Introduction to Southern Studies” will continue to be a regular part of that curriculum.

 

Stacy Morgan

Associate Professor
Department of American Studies

 

 

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