American South: Introductory Lecture

The aim of these blogs on my university course are mainly for me! I was encouraged by a lecturer to start a blog to put down my summaries of lecture notes, seminar discussions and ideas that I had got from books. This I hope will allow me to reflect on what I have heard or discussed in lectures and allow the information to sink in… well it’s worth a try! Of course, you dear reader, are welcome to read them too and comment on them with your opinion on what has been written- there is always more than one right answer and I would like to know of them and even where you have gained your ideas from!

The first lecture notes I am going to summarise are my American South Lectures- this one being the introductory lectures. I am going to divide them into sub headings.

Images of the South

Some of the ideas that are conjured up in peoples heads or how the South is portrayed would be things like Dixie, the land of cotton and cavaliers, the No. 1 economic problem in America, the Gothic underbelly of America- where all the seedy stuff happens and the nation’s inferiority complex.


What is the American South? Is it a geographical area? a political area? and where is it situated precisely- what are it’s boundaries? What defines it’s identity- what sets it apart?

Southern Paradox

It’s an area whose people are known to be Ultra- patriotic but has an identity in it’s un-Americaness or even more precisely it’s un-Northerness. In other words it longs to part of America but yet be seen to have different ideals- how does this work?

During the 19th Century there was a battle over it’s national identity.

But What Sense Of The South?

Is it in it’s geography? Is it in it’s views on slavery? It’s decisions it made leading up to the civil war? Is it made in it’s time of reconstruction? It’s decisions on implementing segregation.

Finally, what defines regional identity? Is it religion, the accent, diet, music, land or customs?


One response to “American South: Introductory Lecture

  1. Hey there Phil….these are just some thoughts I had after reading this entry…some things stemmed from each other but here’s one Northern American answers to some of the questions in your post. I’ll enjoy learning along with you!

    As a northerner I indentify the south as a combination of a geographical region as well as a cultural change. For me…when I travel…the south starts for me at the border states (check civil war maps) continues down to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Lousianna. West as far as Arakansas and probably most of Missouri. Florida is not really thought of as a “southern” sate because of it’s large winter citizen also depends where you are in florida…enter one city and nothing seems different from a northern town (excpet the warmer climate) and enter another town with a feeling of, “Yup I’m definately in the south.” I also view the south as very tradition orientated….gentlemen are gentlemen and ladies are ladies. There are some families that still retain that ‘old south’ thinking of how a family should act. Women pay deference to men, women don’t take iniative in relationships, women are dressed well all the time–full on make-up, teased hair. Men work and pay the bills, children pay repsect to both parents but definately to the father. Another note on defining where the south is…if you go by accent…it can start in Northern Missouri and Mid-Illinois and sothern Indiana…I tease my step-father all the time about how he says different words…He grew up in southerin Illinois, near St. Louis.

    some thoughts I had while reading your section on Southern Paradox….

    All over the U.S. you will find people and areas that are Ultra-Patriotic. Take myself and for the most part my farmily and community. We are proud citizens of the United States. We have a flag out in our yard, we’ve had multiple families choose to defend the country in military service throughout history, we get a little pissed off when other americans don’t stand up for the national anthem or put the hands over their hearts when a color guard passes in a parade or when we say the Pledge of Allegience. Most of all…our family is proud of our heritage…Although I’m only 5th/4th generation American and many families have been here longer…we are noneless proud of our heritage and the history of the places we live. This leads me to the point that in the south…you find people just like this…and most people aren’t extremists. Yes…in the years after the War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression/Civil War–it has soo many names here…there was some great hostility about the disbanding of the confederacy….but that has disapated. Yes we still have radicals that display the Stars and Bars in a threatening way, but most people just think that flag as a part of their heritage. Although…I may still cringe a little when I see it…it just reminds me of the not so glamerous parts of our history surrounding the time of the and before the civl war as well as more present times. There many civil war Renactments in the south which sometimes gets held over the South’s head…like they just can’t forget what happend. But…we have a fair amount of them in the North too. There are a ton of reenactors that are devoted to portraying this time in American history…I’m even starting to dabble in it myself.

    As americans we are proud of the areas we live. The coasts, the great plains, the mid-west, the south…we all have something to be proud of….the seedy-ness of the south i think partly stems from the clout of the civl war…the victors wrote the history books and I don’t think the south’s rep. has ever really recovered. I hope it eventually does. it’s a great part of our country and I hope ideas about the area change….I’m even considering relocating down there after i’m done with university…for so many reasons…some pluses are the amazing food and better weather…I’m so sick of snow and sub-zero temperatures for 5 months out of the year…bring on the heat!!!

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