On behalf of The Southern Roundtable, let us first thank all of our loyal workshop editors, blog subscribers, poll participants, and especially our invited guest bloggers, for making this past semester–our inaugural semester, no less–such a success in terms of scholarly outreach and productivity. What follows is an accounting of SRT activities as only the literary voice of our esteemed Materials Editor/Scribe, Trae Welborn (better known as JHW to pollsters), might capture. In addition to a fall guest blog lineup stacked by the likes of Dr. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Dr. Paul Anderson, Dr. Robert Malone, and UGA’s own Dr. John Inscoe, please also stay tuned for several summer blog pieces composed by core members of the Roundtable and a number of other esteemed guests…
“Southern Style and Substance:
The First Semester of The Southern Roundtable at UGA”
Like the barrage of Sumter one hundred and fifty years before, the Southern Roundtable burst upon the historical scene with flash and fury in the spring of 2011. With Stuartesque flair and Stonewallian fortitude, the knights of The Southern Roundtable paraded through their inaugural semester of writing workshops, blogspots, and mock defenses!
Beginning with Samantha Cole’s (Art History) examination of Civil War-Era artist William Louis Sonntag and his southern landscapes, the Roundtable provided constructive criticism and astute appraisals on a variety of southern cultural topics throughout the semester. Ms. Cole quickly parlayed this feedback into an Art History Conference presentation that received rave reviews, and the piece forms a fundamental part of her Master’s thesis. The knights pushed forward—literally and historically—to the late nineteenth century with an article by yours truly, which analyzed the South Carolina Dispensary System enacted by the infamous Benjamin Ryan Tillman. Dispensing its own considerable stylistic and historical expertise, the Roundtable greatly enhanced the piece, and eagerly awaits (along with its author) word of its acceptance in a prestigious peer-reviewed state journal.
Having tackled southern art and southern alcohol control, the Roundtable further extended its topical reach with Thomas Chase Hagood’s fascinating look at Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the Southern frontier. By helping Mr. Hagood refine his use of historical memory in analyzing the “Pageant of Tuscaloosa,” the Roundtable assisted their esteemed colleague in his final steps toward a successful dissertation defense and eventual manuscript publication. The final workshop of the semester took the form of a mock thesis defense, wherein Angela Elder faced off with the Roundtable in preparation for her actual defense two weeks distant. Ms. Elder admirably defended her study of Confederate war widows, received sage advice and feedback, and emerged more than prepared to face the fire. The Roundtable congratulates her on her successful defense and anticipates many more successes as she continues her graduate career.
Aside from these writing workshops that formed the bulk of The Southern Roundtable’s spring docket, the knights also exhibited their interests in the digital realm via their blog, “Bowtied and Fried: The Official Blog of the Southern Roundtable.” Several distinguished guest contributors have graced this blog with their intellectual musings, beginning with UGA’s own graduate student Andrew Epstein, who presented a thought-provoking reappraisal of John Brown and his raid on Harper’s Ferry. The blog then portrayed the Texas roots of Outlaw Songwriting as outlined by Dr. Gregg Andrews in his discussion of the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. From outlaws to politicians, Bowtied and Fried next presented a piece by esteemed UGA political science professor Dr. Charles Bullock, who ruminated upon the fate of white Democrats and the consequences of political realignments in the Peach State. The impressive litany of guest contributors concluded with Dr. Scott Nelson’s lively review of David William’s Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War.
Other contributions came from the several core members of the Roundtable, as they waxed poetic regarding various aspects of graduate life—weekend excursions to remote, and renowned, historic sites and conferences—as well as topics consuming their intellectual interests (namely dogs and hunting culture in the Southern experience). These forays coincided with occasional poll questions covering the gamut of “Southernity:” Starting locally, Bowtied and Fried solicited opinions regarding the best barbeque in Athens, Georgia, which after some heated discussion revealed a preference for Jot ‘Em Downs BBQ off of Macon Highway (oft the scene of Roundtable workshops). This elicited a follow-up poll relating to barbeque styles within the region, wherein the vote (after some clarification of monikers and misnomers) slightly favored the vinegar/mustard-based deliciousness proffered under the still disputed title of “Eastern North Carolina-style.”
From here, the polls moved away from food and into literature, gauging opinions as to the “greatest southern author,” whereby Edgar Allan Poe somewhat surprisingly upset William Faulkner in a landslide. The final two polls returned to the Southern trial by fire, the “late unpleasantness” commonly known as the Civil War. In honor of the Sesquicentennial of the initiation of that conflict at Fort Sumter, the Roundtable sought to discover “Favorite Civil War Personalities.” In the spirit of sectional reconciliation, Bowtied and Fried provided a poll for both Union and Confederate personages, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson rode Little Sorrel to victory with 40% of the Confederate vote. For the Union cause, favoritism fell equally upon both Joshua Chamberlain, the “hero of Little Round Top”, and William Tecumseh Sherman, each garnering 30% of the votes cast. Bowtied and Fried’s final poll of the semester gauged the Civil War film favorites of the blog’s followers. In a hotly contested debate, Gettysburg edged out Glory as the ultimate favorite, both garnering over 30% of the votes in a field that included such venerable and varied classics as Gone with the Wind and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Having tackled such a wide range of topics in only its first months, The Southern Roundtable sits poised to continue “Bow-Tied and Fried” into a new academic year. Please stay tuned.