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Brinkmeyer

New era in Southern studies begins

By Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-7704

A scholar of contemporary Southern literature and culture has been selected to lead the Institute for Southern Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Robert Brinkmeyer, who joined USC’s faculty in 2000 and is the Emily Brown Jefferies Professor of English and Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies, has been named director. Brinkmeyer succeeds Walter Edgar, who retired May 31 and led the institute since its founding in 1980.

A scholar of early-to-mid 20th century writers who include William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy and Eudora Welty, Brinkmeyer has spent much of his career helping to shape an international understanding of Southern studies by establishing university exchange programs and lecturing extensively throughout Europe and Russia.

“In the last decade or so, the field of Southern Studies has changed dramatically. Many scholars are now looking at the South through a lens that is simultaneously local and international,” Brinkmeyer said. “Scholars often talk about ‘the many Souths’ rather than ‘the South,’ examining the many vibrant subcultures operating within operating within Southern culture. In other words, the South’s diversity is now at front and center in scholarly research.”

Building on the institute’s strong foundation set by Edgar, Brinkmeyer said he wants to create a broad understanding of the South while offering faculty and students new ways of studying the region.

His plans call for joint projects with other disciplines, including programs in women’s and gender studies, African, Latin American, Jewish and African studies; opportunities for interdisciplinary team-teaching of courses; yearly themes to guide speakers, colloquia and public events; and collaboration with other Southern studies-focused centers on research and symposia that would provide a comparative look at the South.

Brinkmeyer said students can expect more course offerings this year.

Rob Gilmer, a new faculty member whose research areas is Native American history and environmental history, will teach a new course this fall titled, “Native Americans in the Contemporary South: ‘Indian Princesses,’ Tribal Recognition and Gaming.” Next spring, faculty from a variety of departments will teach a special topics course, including one on Piedmont music. Plans call for the hiring of two more faculty this year, one a research professor in Southern Studies and a joint hire in anthropology.

“These are exciting times for the Institute for Southern Studies,” he said.

Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences agrees.

“The work conducted by the scholars and students in the Institute demonstrates that the local has strong and powerful connections and implications for global understanding,” Fitzpatrick said.

Before joining USC’s faculty, Brinkmeyer was chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas. He previously had taught at the University of Mississippi, Tulane University and North Carolina Central University. A native of Washington D.C., Brinkmeyer earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University and a doctoral degree in English from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

An expert in modern and contemporary Southern literature and culture, Brinkmeyer is the author of five books, including his most recent, “The Fourth Ghost: White Southern Writers and European, 1930 – 1950,”which earned the 2010 PROSE Award by the Association of American Publishers for the best book published in literature, language and linguistics and the 2009 Warren-Brooks Award for Excellence in Literary Criticism.

His research, which has earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright appointment, includes the study of and writing on a wide variety of writers, which include Mark Twain, Erskine Caldwell, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jean Toomer, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Smith, Carson McCullers, Darcy Steinke, Frederick Barthelme, James Agee, V.S. Naipaul and Richard Ford, in addition to Faulker, O’Connor, Percy and Welty.

His editorial experience is extensive. He serves on the editorial boards of “The Mississippi Quarterly” and “The Flannery O’Connor Review” and is a board member of the USC Press. He is series editor for USC Press’s new series, “Southern Revivals,” which reprints contemporary Southern fiction, and is an editorial member of UNC Press’s series, “New Directions in Southern Studies.” He is a former longtime executive board member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

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Posted: 07/18/12 @ 1:30 PM | Updated: 08/10/12 @ 4:35 PM | Permalink

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