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Appalachia in the Classroom

Appalachia in the Classroom: Teaching the Region

Theresa L. Burriss
Patricia M. Gantt
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Ohio University Press
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Appalachia in the Classroom
    Book Description:

    Appalachia in the Classroom contributes to the twenty-first century dialogue about Appalachia by offering topics and teaching strategies that represent the diversity found within the region. Appalachia is a distinctive region with various cultural characteristics that can't be essentialized or summed up by a single text. Appalachia in the Classroom offers chapters on teaching Appalachian poetry and fiction as well as discussions of nonfiction, films, and folklore. Educators will find teaching strategies that they can readily implement in their own classrooms; they'll also be inspired to employ creative ways of teaching marginalized voices and to bring those voices to the fore. In the growing national movement toward place-based education, Appalachia in the Classroom offers a critical resource and model for engaging place in various disciplines and at several different levels in a thoughtful and inspiring way. Contributors: Emily Satterwhite, Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, John C. Inscoe, Erica Abrams Locklear, Jeff Mann, Linda Tate, Tina L. Hanlon, Patricia M. Gantt, Ricky L. Cox, Felicia Mitchell, R. Parks Lanier, Jr., Theresa L. Burriss, Grace Toney Edwards, and Robert M. West.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4456-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    Theresa L. Burriss

    As we move into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the scholarly discipline of Appalachian Studies continues to evolve and change to keep pace with the living culture on which it focuses. While Appalachian Studies must remain mindful of the past to understand and inform the present, educators and scholars should maintain a contemporary focus on the region and its people in order to address current issues. Rigorous study and critique of both old and new Appalachian arts and literature legitimize this still relatively young discipline and provide students with critical thinking skills that can be applied in any...


    • ONE Intro to Appalachian Studies: Navigating Myths of Appalachian Exceptionalism
      (pp. 3-32)

      These epigraphs¹ represent four stances toward the idea of Appalachia that I see at the beginning of each semester when I teach Introduction to Appalachian Studies. About a third or more of my students come to Blacksburg and Virginia Tech from the metropolitan areas of Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Northern Virginia (oriented to Washington, DC), plus a small sprinkling from metropolitan places outside Virginia. Like the first three students quoted above, metropolitan students often arrive with unexamined assumptions about the region—predominantly negative stereotypes, but also romantic views of Appalachia as a simpler, more wholesome place that is homogeneous in...

    • TWO Listening to Black Appalachian Laundrywomen: Teaching with Photographs, Letters, Diaries, and Lost Voices
      (pp. 33-49)

      In 1989, scholar darlene clark hine proposed the concept “culture of dissemblance” to discuss the challenges and ethical issues of recovering black US women’s lives. In her influential “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West,” Hine focused primarily on the legacy of rape and domestic violence African American women might try to hide when interviewed by scholars. Believing it might be better to say nothing than risk being exploited again, and believing it better to agree there was no story to tell than to lose the right to control what was told to whom, black...

    • THREE The Southern Highlands according to Hollywood: Teaching Appalachian History through Film
      (pp. 50-66)

      One of the courses that i most enjoy teaching is a freshman seminar called “Appalachia on Film.” At the University of Georgia, I’m an academic exile from the region (though I take comfort on occasion that Athens is only one county away from official Appalachia, according to the ARC’s skewed reasoning). I rarely get the chance to teach Appalachian history at the undergraduate level, so I jumped at the chance to develop this course when freshman seminars were added as a curricular option at UGA several years ago. It is an opportunity many faculty members use to bring to the...


    • FOUR Building Bridges with Ron Rash’s The World Made Straight: Results from One University and High School Partnership
      (pp. 69-81)

      It seems to me that living in appalachia and also teaching about Appalachia presents a complicated opportunity. On one hand, you are fully immersed in what sociologists would call a “case study.” For instance, you can read about folkway food traditions like ramp festivals and then take a group of students to experience one of those festivals in April or May. But on the other hand, you must be very careful in making assumptions about what your students do and do not know about the region. Some of them are from Appalachia, but as scholars of the region know, that...

    • FIVE The Feast Hall, the Arsenal, and the Mirror: Teaching Literature to Students at Risk
      (pp. 82-94)

      I am primarily a poet, only secondarily a teacher. So when I think about teaching—which I do rarely, since my pedagogy is more intuitive than consciously considered—I think in metaphor. The metaphors I choose can’t help but reveal, to some extent, who and what I am.

      When teaching literature, sometimes I feel as if I’m giving students much-needed food. It seems inevitable that a man like me, descended from a family of hearty mountain cooks and gourmands, would compare a poem to a biscuit, a short story to a big slab of country ham. The writing that has...

    • SIX I Hear Appalachia Singing: Teaching Appalachian Literature in a General Education American Literature Course
      (pp. 95-108)

      Lee Smith often tells the story of the day she left her home in the mountain community of Grundy, Virginia, to attend Hollins College. While she was waiting for her father to return from his Ben Franklin dime store and drive her to school, she sat on the front porch while her mother and aunts talked interminably about whether her mother had colitis. Smith could not wait to leave home!

      Later that year, working her way through the fiction books in the college library, Smith came across James Still’s ([1940] 1978) novel River of Earth. She was taking classes with...

    • SEVEN “Way Back Yonder” but Not So Far Away: Teaching Appalachian Folktales
      (pp. 109-128)

      Jack and the Wonder Beans by James Still opens by placing Jack and his poor mother “way back yonder,” but they are also in “their homeseat … here on Wolfpen Creek” (where Still lived in Knott County, Kentucky). “Or around about” (Still [1977] 1996). As Still’s introduction demonstrates, the words of storytellers, written or oral, draw us in to worlds that fascinate because they are always remote and familiar at the same time, fantastical but also realistic, timeless and yet timely as they reflect our deepest fears and wishes. Most people know ancient stories about Jack’s encounters with giants and...


    • EIGHT Teaching Modern Appalachia in Wilma Dykeman’s The Far Family
      (pp. 131-148)

      I teach at utah state university in Logan, Utah—quite a distance from the blue hills of my North Carolina birth. My students, most of whom are planning to be secondary teachers, have probably never traveled east of the Missouri, much less the Mississippi. Certainly none of them has any familiarity with the French Broad, that river so intimately a part of Wilma Dykeman’s fiction. Yet I have found that Dykeman’s novels are so accessible to this audience that I have successfully used them multiple times in classes focusing on folk narrative, foodways, and material culture; teaching literature; and young...

    • NINE Fred Chappell’s I Am One of You Forever as a Subject for Literary Analysis and an Alternative Image of Mid-Twentieth-Century Appalachia
      (pp. 149-168)
      RICKY L. COX

      Set in western north carolina around 1940, Fred Chappell’s I Am One of You Forever (1985)¹ is the first in a series of four short novels centered on the immediate and extended family of Jess Kirkman, the book’s narrator and central character. Despite occasional reminders that the story is being told by a grown-up Jess in early middle age, the point of view is primarily that of Jess as an observant, thoughtful boy between ten and twelve years old, who is equally at ease hoeing corn and reading prose translations of Homer. Jess narrates the three succeeding novels as well,...

    • TEN Startling Morals: Teaching Ecofiction with Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer
      (pp. 169-186)

      To learn what is wrong with our environment, and why one ought to think about saving the world, a reader need only turn to a number of treatises, case studies, congressional hearings, and scientific measures giving alarming readings. The Environmental Protection Agency, along with “watchdog” agencies such as Environmental Defense, is more than happy to provide details about the air we breathe, toxins in our streams, and miscellaneous risks humans face if they do not modify certain behaviors. If scientific treatises are difficult to interpret, other environmental nonfiction abounds. Barbara Kingsolver’s own Small Wonder (2002b) is a popular choice in...


    • ELEVEN Appalachian Poetry: A Field Guide for Teachers
      (pp. 189-212)

      Where are the appalachian poets? A glance at a map of the Appalachian region as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will provide one answer. The Appalachian poets are, or have been, where the mountains in the eastern United States are. That is an incomplete answer, however, for even an ARC map may not show all the mountains or even the entire length of the Appalachian Trail northward into Maine. Not all the mountain counties of Virginia, for example, are included within the ARC’s domain.

      Not all poets fit neatly within the ARC’s boundaries. Fred Chappell has spent most...

    • TWELVE From Harlem Home to Affrilachia: Teaching the Literary Journey
      (pp. 213-231)

      Most readers of appalachian literature would not expect to find riffs of 1920s Harlem jazz wafting through this mountain writing. Nor would they anticipate an encounter with the politics of the 1960s Black Arts Movement (BAM). But these unexpected discoveries and more are what readers will find in the poetry and short stories of Affrilachians Frank X Walker, Nikky Finney, and Crystal Wilkinson. The writers meld the aesthetics and social agendas of the Harlem Renaissance with the Black Arts Movement to inspire writing chiseled from their Appalachian homeplace. In the process they have forged a new movement, a continuation of...

    • THIRTEEN Teaching the Poetry and Prose of Marilou Awiakta
      (pp. 232-251)

      From her earliest years Marilou awiakta has been an astute observer, listener, and storyteller. A Cherokee/Appalachian author in Memphis, Tennessee, she writes poetry and prose that range in subject matter from childhood memories of growing up in Oak Ridge during the days of the Manhattan Project,¹ to myths, legends, and stories of the Cherokee, to social, political, scientific, and environmental issues in contemporary society. She says that the three major strands of her life and thereby her writing are her Cherokee ancestry, her Celtic/Appalachian heritage, and her upbringing on the atomic frontier of Oak Ridge.

      For her writing, she chose...

    • FOURTEEN Toward “Crystal-Tight Arrays”: Teaching the Evolving Art of Robert Morgan’s Poetry
      (pp. 252-264)

      Robert morgan has written poetry of distinction for more than forty years: his first book, Zirconia Poems, appeared in 1969; and in 2011 he brought out his fifteenth collection, Terroir. His poems have often first appeared in such prestigious venues as Poetry, the Southern Review, the Georgia Review, and the Atlantic Monthly, and have been reprinted in many anthologies. Readers familiar with Appalachian literature have long counted him an important Appalachian poet. Special issues of Appalachian Heritage, Iron Mountain Review, Pembroke Magazine, and Southern Quarterly have spotlighted his work. The two existing book-length studies of Appalachian poetry, Rita Sims Quillen’s...

    (pp. 265-268)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 269-281)