Professor Stacy Boyd '96 spoke to students enrolled in "Magnolias, Militias, and Moonlight."
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 life.” Beyond the ClassroomOn 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 southern history.
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 Hill. 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.