Saturday, October 25, 2008, 11:00am - 3:00pm
The Rural South
The Pastoral South of the Mind: Imagining the Rural South in the 1960s and 1970s
Zachary J. Lechner, Temple University
This paper charts southerners’ and nonsoutherners’ imaginings of the rural South in the 1960s and 1970s. It highlights U.S. cultural and social anxieties during this era and explains how invocations of “southernness” helped Americans to deal with these concerns. Many cultural producers criticized the supposed artifice and disingenuousness of modern society. Emphasizing earthy simplicity, they often found utility in an unlikely alternative—a white pre-modern South that was family- and rural-oriented. This point of view, though, did not completely displace images of rural southerners as vicious, racist, and backward. An examination of popular discourses demonstrates Americans’ serious struggles over the meaning and usefulness of southernness for the rest of the nation. This analysis is grounded in a series of cultural productions, including The Andy Griffith Show, Deliverance, countercultural country-rock music, the writings of southern intellectuals and community leaders, and press coverage of Georgian Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign.
To Keep Her in the Station in Which She Was Raised: Limitations of Color, Community, and Class Via Matrimony in the Old South
Gary T. Edwards, Arkansas State University
Courtship choices and matrimonial partners remained highly limited and well-defined among the white inhabitants of the slave South. Three categories encompassed the bulk of objectionable variables: color (race), community (neighborhood), and class (particularly slave ownership). When these three key elements blended into harmony, societal approval and personal compatibility potentially followed, but when any of these slipped out of synchronization, courtship and matrimony became difficult if not impossible. This paper examines the existence of these particular borders among the inhabitants of the rural plantation regions of western Tennessee during the late antebellum era. Based on a database of 122 new marriages in Madison County, Tennessee from 1851-1855, the conclusions of this paper reinforce the strength of these boundaries. However, a few notable exceptions complicate efforts to craft a monolithic interpretation. It was one thing to “marry well” but quite another to marry into the class of slaveholders.
Where Liberty Gets its Life: Rural Politics and Railroad Development in 19th Century Kentucky
Helen LaCroix, University of Wisconsin at Madison
This paper describes the conservative political ideology, focused on the particular authority of property owners in a democratic republic, that dominated political discourse in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky during the 19th century. The paper explores how the agricultural elites who adhered to this tradition reacted to the incursion of corporate capital into their communities in the form of railroads. Boosters described railroads as a leveling force that could erase inequalities that had divided wealthy landowners from their poorer counterparts for decades. In response, Bluegrass landowners argued that taxation in support of private corporations would effect an “agrarian” redistribution of private property. I argue that this view of railroads as a force that threatened to tear traditional social relations apart represents a variation on common themes in rural politics at the end of the 19th century.
All papers are pre-circulated electronically to those who plan to attend the seminar in person. For a copy of the paper, e-mail Jenny Butler at email@example.com, or call 312-255-3524.
The Newberry Library Seminar in Rural History
Co-sponsored by Trinity Christian College and the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture at the University of Chicago
The Newberry Library
Dr. William M. Scholl Center for
American History and Culture
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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