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Georgia Southern University Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Lecture Series

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Georgia Southern University Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Lecture Series

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Nations Divided

America, Italy, and the Southern Question

Don H. Doyle

In Nations Divided, Don H. Doyle looks at some unexpected parallels in American and Italian history. What we learn will reattune us to the complexities and ironies of nationalism. During his travels around southern Italy not long ago, Doyle was caught off guard by frequent images of the Confederate battle flag. The flag could also be seen, he was told, waving in the stands at soccer matches. At the same time, a political movement in northern Italy called for secession from the South. A historian with a special interest in the long troubled relationship between the American South and the United States, Doyle was driven to understand the forces that unite and divide nations from within.

The Italian South had been at odds with the more prosperous, metropolitan North of Italy since the country's bloody unification struggles in the 1860s. Thousands of miles from Doyle's Tennessee home was an eerily familiar scenario: a South characterized in terms of its many perceived problems by a North eager to define national ideals against the southern "other." From this abruptly decentered perspective, Doyle reexamines both countries' struggle to create an independent, unified nation and the ongoing effort to instill national identity in their diverse populace. The Fourth of July and Statuto Day; Lincoln and Garibaldi; the Confederate States of America and the secessionist dreams of Italy's Northern League; NAFTA and the European Union--such topics appear in telling juxtaposition, both inviting and defying easy conclusions. At the same time, Doyle negotiates the conceptual slipperiness of nationalism by discussing it as both constructed and real, unifying and divisive, inspiration for good and excuse for atrocity.

"Americans like to think of themselves as being innocent of the vicious ethnic warfare that has raged in the Old World and over so much of the globe," writes Doyle. "Europeans, in turn, enjoy reminding Americans of how little history they have." This enlightening, challenging meditation shows us that Europeans and Americans have much to learn from the common history of nationalism that has shaped both their worlds.

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Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895

Theda Perdue

The Cotton States Exposition of 1895 was a world’s fair in Atlanta held to stimulate foreign and domestic trade for a region in an economic depression. Theda Perdue uses the exposition to examine the competing agendas of white supremacist organizers and the peoples of color who participated.

White organizers had to demonstrate that the South had solved its race problem in order to attract business and capital. As a result, the exposition became a venue for a performance of race that formalized the segregation of African Americans, the banishment of Native Americans, and the incorporation of other people of color into the region’s racial hierarchy.

White supremacy may have been the organizing principle, but exposition organizers gave unprecedented voice to minorities. African Americans used the Negro Building to display their accomplishments, to feature prominent black intellectuals, and to assemble congresses of professionals, tradesmen, and religious bodies. American Indians became more than sideshow attractions when newspapers published accounts of the difficulties they faced. And performers of ethnographic villages on the midway pursued various agendas, including subverting Chinese exclusion and protesting violations of contracts. Close examination reveals that the Cotton States Exposition was as much about challenges to white supremacy as about its triumph.

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Writing Matters

Rhetoric in Public and Private Lives

Andrea A. Lunsford Foreword by Caren Town

Anyone who laments the demise of print text would find a sympathetic listener in Andrea A. Lunsford. Anyone who bemoans the lack of respect for blogs, graphic novels, and other new media would find her no less understanding. Lunsford is at home in both camps because she sees beyond writing's ever-changing forms to the constancy of its power to "make space for human agency--or to radically limit such agency."

Lunsford is a celebrated scholar of rhetoric and composition, and many undergraduates taking courses in those subjects have used her textbooks. Here she helps us see that writing is not just a mode of communication, persuasion, and expression, but a web of meanings and practices that shape our lives. Lunsford tells how she gained a new respect for our digital culture's three v's--vocal, visual, verbal--while helping design and teach a course in multimedia writing. On the importance of having a linguistically pluralistic society, Lunsford draws links between such varied topics as the English Only movement, language extinction, Ebonics, and the text messaging shorthand "l33t."

Lunsford has seen how words, writing, and language enforce unfair power relationships in the academy. Most classroom settings, she writes, are authority based and stress "individualism, ranking, hierarchy, and therefore--we have belatedly come to understand--exclusion." Concerned about the paucity--still--of tenured women and minority faculty, she urges schools to revisit admission and retention practices. These are tough and divisive problems, Lunsford acknowledges. Yet if we can see that writing has the power to help prolong or solve them--that writing matters--then we have a common ground.

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