Professor Stacy Boyd '96 spoke to students enrolled in "Magnolias, Militias, and
Randolph-Macon College’s First-Year Experience (FYE)
program immerses freshmen in a cross-disciplinary study that is challenging, thought-provoking—and
Small cohorts join professors from two different disciplines for a year-long exploration
of a topic in a challenging set of classes. Outside the classroom, students participate
in co-curricular events designed to deepen their understanding of the topic. The
students’ work culminates in an interdisciplinary analysis that might take the form
of a written report, a video production or a work of art.
Magnolias, Militias, and Moonlight
This year, R-MC Professors Bryan Giemza (English)
and Alphine Jefferson (history) are teaching
“Magnolias, Militias, and Moonlight: Regional Mythology in Southern History and
Literature.” The course analyzes how competing visions of the mythic South are depicted
in literature and history.
“We are offering students an opportunity to look at a familiar place in a new way
to make its history come alive,” explains Giemza. “We’re taking our enquiry into
the field—to a plantation site, to archives of slave experience, and so on. And
we’re tracing narratives through the history books, through firsthand accounts and
oral histories, and through literature. The lines between history and literature
are always shifting, but it’s a particularly exciting moment to have this discussion,
and it’s a particular privilege to work with Professor Jefferson, who understands
the South from the inside out.”
For Jefferson, teaching this class has special significance. “As a proud ‘son of
the South’ and a native Virginian, I analyze the historical, literary and visual
texts from a firsthand knowledge of ‘the lived southern experience,’” he says. “However,
my greatest joy is how much I learn from the students who bring to the classroom
extensive knowledge about and passionate enthusiasm for all aspects of southern
Beyond the Classroom
On September 23, R-MC alumnus and University of West Georgia Professor Stacy Boyd
’96 spoke to students about the importance of slave narratives in understanding
On October 1, Professor Dale Shields, a professional theatre director and Black
Theatre archivist, presented “Southern Images and Themes of Tennessee Williams”
to students enrolled in “Magnolias, Militias, and Moonlight.” Shields is an African
American actor, archivist, director, educator and stage manager who has been active
in the theatre since 1974. Shields talked about Southern and Black theatre history
and American theatre's origin in the state of Virginia.
On October 15, Grammy-winning producer and musical historian Steve Buckingham presented
“Rhythm & Blues Tore Down the Walls of Segregation” to faculty, students, staff
and the community. Buckingham depicted how Jazz from the 1930s and ‘40s, Rock ‘n’
Roll and Rhythm & Blues from the 1950s and Soul Music in the 1960s had a bigger
impact on fostering integration than the courts, especially among white teenagers.
On October 21, Valerie Sayers, southern novelist and director of Notre Dame’s Creative
Writing Program, shared her insights on southern literature and the writing process.
A native of Beaufort, S.C., Sayers read from her own work and explained how the
region shaped it.
Giemza and Jefferson also have a trip to Union Theological Seminary planned, where
author Taylor Branch will speak to students about the history of civil rights, and
they are making plans for 2011 events.
“We will bring Nicholas Allen of the National University of Ireland Galway to campus,”
says Giemza. “He is a visiting Burns Scholar who has lived and worked in the South,
which will bring an international perspective to our study of the region. This course
really has the potential to change the way students think about themselves and others.”
Giemza joined the faculty in 2008. He earned his B.A. at the University of Notre
Dame and his J.D., M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Jefferson joined the faculty in 2005. He earned his A.B. from the University of
Chicago and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University.