Course Instructor Days Times Room


English 4642 will consider a series of films (many of them iconic) about the American South.  The objective will be to understand and appreciate these films as cinema, explore their perspectives on the history and culture of the American South, and study their sources, especially literary sources.  We will cover a film a week. The class will meet on Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 AM in 144 Park Hall. There will be a required viewing session each Monday, beginning at 3:35, in 153 Miller Learning Center.  

You should have considerable experience in reading literature.  We will cover fifteen films and several novels, plays, and assorted articles, stories, and other writings.   Readings not on this syllabus will be announced and placed on the class web site. 

Class format:  This will be an intensive discussion and participation class.  I will give some lectures, but mainly we will discuss the film under study for the week.  Sometimes we will break into smaller groups, and sometimes we will have discussions as an entire group.  Sometimes panels of students will talk in front of the class, or field questions, or ask questions of the class.  You should always feel free to ask relevant questions of me and of others in the class at any time during lectures and discussions.  As we exchange ideas, it will be important to respect differing opinions and to present ideas with clarity and reasonable evidence in their support.  The success of this class depends on our careful attention to the films and readings and your intensive engagement and participation.

Primary viewing sessions each Monday, 3:35, MLC 245:  At the Monday viewing session you will see the film we are discussing that week.  This viewing session is required: it is important that you arrive on time and that you not leave until the film is over.  If you miss this session, you are responsible for seeing the film on your own.  (Most if not all of the films are available in the library).  It is essential that you watch each film we discuss before Tuesday’s class.

You should expect from this course enhanced appreciation and understanding of . . .

. . . some important or at least interesting films and their sources, especially literary sources.

. . . how to view and critically assess a film.

 . . . how the American South and its history and culture are portrayed in literature and film, and how the South sometimes serves as a metaphor for issues extending well beyond regional boundaries.

. . . how race, class, gender, history, economics, religion, ideology, and other aspects, often less tangible and more abstract, of the human condition provide the substance of literature and film.

I look forward to getting to know all of you.  Choosing the films we are going to discuss has been difficult.  Many good ones are not on the list.  If you have substitute films to suggest (or general suggestions about the class), please let me have your thoughts.  The opportunity to teach this course is an exciting one, and I expect to learn a great deal in the coming weeks.  



Below is a tentative schedule of the films we may cover--it's subject to change: 

  1. Jezebel
  2. The Southerner
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird
  4. Cool Hand Luke
  5. Deliverance
  6. Wise Blood
  7. Look Back in Anger
  8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  9. The Help
  10. Mud
  11. The Tree of Life
  12. As I Lay Dying
  13.  Beasts of the Southern Wild
  14. 12 Years a Slave
  15. Moonlight

The following describes the course as taught in spring 2016.  The course may change for fall 2017.


Report: At some point in the term, I’ll ask you to give a short report, 10 minutes long, on a film not covered in class. You should upload to ELC a written version of the report (a text, or handout, or PowerPoint, or web site). This assignment counts 10% of your grade.

Short critical paper: some 1000 words in length, at a date to be announced during the term. This assignment counts 15% of your grade.

Long critical paper: some 2500 words in length, at a date to be announced during the term. I’ll give you more information on these papers soon. This assignment counts 30% of your grade.

Participation counts 25% of your grade.  Participation comes in many forms, including class and ELC discussions, attendance, and so on.

ELC postings:  Feel free to use the ELC discussion area to post thoughts and comments about the films and books we cover and the discussions we have.  Posting on ELC is not a requirement, but it is a form of participation.  I encourage you to read these postings.  They may become the basis for class discussions.

Final examination: counts 20% of your grade.  It will cover the entire course and is scheduled for May 10, 12:00 - 3:00 pm, in a location to be announced.  I don’t give exams ahead of time, unless you find that on final examination day you have two other exams scheduled.  See the policy on exam schedule conflicts:

Submission of papers and reports:  All papers should be submitted electronically in Word format, via ELC.  You do not need to own Word to submit in Word format—most word processing programs allow you to save in the Word format.  If your program does not allow this, you may use Google Docs:

I don’t accept late papers.  You must turn papers and other assignments in on time—this means submitted by midnight at the end of the day they are due.  Do not submit paper copies.  If you know a problem may prevent you from turning your paper in by the deadline, discuss it with me ahead of time.  It will be my decision whether to accept a late assignment and whether to give it full or partial credit. In rare instances, when there is a valid documented reason, I will work with you to find a way to make up assignments.

Standards:  I grade papers both on the quality of the content and the writing.  My standards are high, and I am confident you will meet them. Written work is an important part of this course.

Academic Honesty:  All academic work must meet the standards contained in “A Culture of Honesty.” Students are responsible for informing themselves about those standards before performing any academic work.  I strongly support the University’s policy on Academic Honesty and the Honor Code. Detailed information about academic honesty can be found at  


See above.


Attendance:   Everyone should attend all class meetings.  I do take attendance. You are responsible for all class assignments, lectures, and discussions regardless of whether you are present on a particular day.



The following books were required in the spring 2016 version of the course.  Titles may change for the fall 2017 version.

Texts   (available in campus bookstore; feel free to use e-book versions)

Juicy and Delicious, by Lucy Alibar

Deliverance, by James Dickey

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northrup

Sweet Bird of Youth, by Tennessee Williams


Makeup Policy

See above.