Southern Things

A group of us working together in a course on Writing Material Culture developed a collaborative project on Southern Things. Our challenge: to reflect on iconic objects that we seldom consider in canonical constructions of the American South. Some of these objects are so commonplace and shopworn in the world of ideas that it seemed at first they had nothing left to offer up, but the meditations on a Mason jar and a cast-iron skillet render those objects visible in new and poetic ways. You would think as well that the Mason Dixon Line was a done deal: except that we tend to forget that it is a line drawn on paper and that as a line it is a mark of division just as it is an armature around which ideas and values are wound. Mammy’s Kitchen Cupboard in Mississippi and Pedro looming over South of the Border alongside the South Carolina interstate speak to the monumental in ways that resonate with rice dikes in the Carolina Low County and Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakkers’ recently demolished King’s Castle. Experience, lived and imagined, address the potent Hurricane served in a New Orleans bar and the green dress fabricated for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Representations of self and society emanate from a pair of cotillion gloves and a fancy Lane cake. And, then there is challenge of the exotic mixed with the local in a glass of rose-infused sweet tea served in a Mediterranean delicatessen.

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