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Appalachian Studies: Literature

English 3200, Appalachian Literature

Welcome! We'll be reading a variety of texts  from Appalachia and studying the culture that produced them at the same time. Writing can't exist independently of culture, and, I believe, a culture can't long exist without its writings.


Dr. Crisp, aged about 18 months, on the porch with her great-grandparents near the coal mines in Brilliant, Alabama


Course outline


  1. "Heritage" by James Still
  2. Unifying book: River of Earth by Still (novel in DSC bookstore or Amazon, etc.)


  1. "Tsali of the Cherokees" (in coursepack)
  2. Choose tales from Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney (alternate link if you want to download an ebook version)
  3. David Crockett, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee
    1. Free Web and Kindle versions. Other versions available from Amazon, etc.
    2. Not in the DSC library. Several copies in the public library system.


  1. Scholarly article to read: The Scotch-Irish Element in Appalachian English
  2. Much less scholarly article from National Geographic: "Appalachians Are Finding Pride in Mountain Twang"
  3. Short story: "The Star in the Valley." Another link, plain HTML text online. Half heavy dialect, half Standard English from the visitor character.
  4. Short story: "Old Skissim's Middle Boy." Another link, PDF textAnother link, plain HTML text. This is a yarn and would also fit the "folkways" unit. It's the heaviest dialect of the works we will read this semester; although it's the length a short story, plan to read it several times to make sense of it. If you are from the South, you may find it helps to read passages out loud. It's very funny once you figure out what it's saying - some of the dialect is exaggerated for effect.


  1. Borden Deal short story "Antaeus" (in the coursepack)
  2. "Aunt Arie" chapter from The Foxfire Book. In the coursepack.
  3. Ballads: background article from Encyclopedia of Appalachia and six selected ballads 
    1. Ballads article
    2. Childe Ballads:
      1. The Wife of Usher’s Well” 
      2. The Brown Girl” 
    3. “Native American” Ballads
      1. ​“Mollie and Tenbrooks” 
      2. Floyd Collins” 
      3. John Henry” 
      4. Omie Wise
    4. "Daniel Boone" poem by Stephen Vincent Benet


  1. From the Autobiography of Mother Jones, Chapter XII: "How the Women Mopped up Coaldale"
  2. Short story "The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord" by Harry Caudill (in the coursepack)
  3. Novella Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis. Plain text in HTMLFree Kindle versionFree audiobook
  4. "Stripped" (poem in the coursepack)


  1. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb (novel in the DSC bookstore, Amazon, and etc.)
  2. Affrilachian poetry (GeorgiaView)
  3. Front Porch Prophet by Raymond Atkins (novel in the DSC bookstore, Amazon, and etc.)


Contents of Appalachian Lit coursepack

Tsali of the Cherokees

“Tsali of the Cherokees” by Norah Roper as told to Alice Marriott from American Indian Mythology (Harper and Row) by Alice Marriott and Carol K. Rachlin. Copyright 1968 by Alice Marriott and Carol K. Rachlin.

Tsali is a controversial figure with many stories about him, but he does seem to have been a real historical figure.

Alice Lee Marriott (1910-1992) was an anthropologist who work in the American Southwest. She collected this story for her book, American Indian Mythology, from Norah Roper, Tsali’s daughter.

Aunt Arie (heavy dialect)

Eliot Wigginton, ed. “Aunt Arie” from The Foxfire Book. Copyright 1972 by Brooks Eliot Wigginton. Doubleday and Company.

“Aunt Arie” is one chapter from The Foxfire Book, the first of a truly remarkable series. The books, and the magazine they collect into volumes, are written by high-school students in Rabun County, Georgia.  English teacher Eliot Wigginton moved down to Rabun Gap from Ithica, New York in 1966 and helped his students start a magazine that collected local folkways by the simple expedient of going out into the community and interviewing their elders. The magazine, and the “Foxfire” method of teaching by doing, became nationwide hits, and the books, the ongoing magazine still published by high-school students, and the Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center in Mountain City, GA, continue to preserve the culture of Southern Appalachia. This interview with Aunt Arie was one of the most popular pieces from the first book.

Poetry (“Stripped” and “The Good Life”)

George Ella Lyon “Stripped” from Appalachian Journal. Copyright 1981 by Appalachian Journal.

George Ella Lyon (1949- ) was born in Harlan, Kentucky, and studied English and creative writing. She has taught writing at University of Kentucky, Centre College, Transylvania University, and Radford University. She teaches writing to adults and children through workshops and author visits.

Rita Quillen  “The Good Life” from Appalachian Journal. Copyright 1984 by Appalachian Journal.

Rita Quillen (1954- ) was born and lives in Hiltons, Virginia. She teaches at Mountain Empire Community College where she started her own college education, writes poetry, and conducts writing workshops.


Borden Deal, “Antaeus” Copyright 1961 by Southern Methodist University Press.

Borden Deal (1922-1985) was born in Pontotoc, in northeastern Mississippi. His family lost their land during the Depression, and land is important in most of his writing, of which there is a great deal. He was a prolific writer though he did not start writing full time until 1956. He published 21 novels and over a hundred short stories.

The Mountain, The Miner, and the Lord

Harry Caudill, “The Mountain, the Miner, and the Lord” Copyright 1980 by the University Press of Kentucky.

Harry Caudill (1922-1990) was born in Letcher County, Kentucky. He was, at various times, a state legislator and an historian studying poverty at the University of Kentucky. He was an environmentalist who opposed strip mining as well as a critic of the historical practices of mining companies, most of which were not headquartered in Appalachia.



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Jenny Crisp
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