Course Details

Introduction to Appalachian Studies
Online| Summer Session 2 I 2016| Virginia Tech | HUM 1704 | CRN 71581 Course blog:

Instructor: Jordan Laney, PhD Candidate, M.A. Appalachian Studies, B.F.A. Creative Writing

For more on my teaching philosophy (it’s a bit different) visit: Looking for more, or want to continue conversations? I tweet about the region, music events, listening samples and gatherings of interest: @jordanllaney

“One place comprehended “My family lives in a can make us understand different state/ If you
other places better. Sense don’t know what to make of place gives equilibrium; of this/ we cannot relate.” extended, it is sense of — “Rivers and Roads” by direction.” –Eudora Welty the Head and the Heart.

Course Objectives:
Traces the idea of Appalachia in American and world consciousness and its expression in the humanities and social sciences. Through comparison with other cultural groups, explores humanistic problems of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, globalization and place-based economic relations, and the bio-cultural impact of massive natural resource extraction.

This is a multi-disciplinary, transdisciplinary class. We will be studying place and identity through multiple lenses and frameworks without partiality to a discipline, but with rigorous attention to how place and identity are created—in this case, Appalachia. To clarify, we will read fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and prose. We will deconstruct historical documents, popular culture images and music. This course is not a history of the region, but an introduction to the complexity of Appalachia and Appalachian people and cultures.

Required Texts:

High Mountains Rising ed. Tyler Blethen
High Mountains Rising (which I refer to in the syllabus and in discussions as HMR) is a standard introductory text to the region using a linear, historical timeline.

The United States of Appalachia by Jeff Biggers.
We learn more about “hidden” histories of the region through this text, while HMR fits the region into a dominant historical narrative.
More here:

A recording (musical album) of your choice is also required. Please see the list of suggestions and sign-up sheet on Canvas.

The Last Mountain
(you can check this out from some local libraries, purchase, rent via amazon, or share with friends).
Mine Wars
The PBS documentary “Mine Wars” can be streamed via

Additional readings (poems, articles, etc.) are found on Canvas under the “Resources” tab and noted as [S] on the syllabus. Please spend some time familiarizing yourself with Canvas. If you have any questions do not hesitate to email the instructor. Again, the required films may be streamed, found at local libraries, or purchased through Amazon.

Engage. Discuss. Challenge yourself. Participate—this course allows you to be involved in the community, actually it demands it—embrace the challenge! Apply the discussions to your own experiences and understanding of home, place, and identity. As an experiential course, your individualized research and time learning “in the field” should be treated as a course “text” as well. You are expected to complete all readings and assignments. You do not need to be from or interested in Appalachia (per se) to excel. We are working to understand power structures and potentials—something that applies to all disciplines and places.

Your opinion and insight is highly valued in this course. There will be reflections almost due almost weekly. I have used these to alter teaching styles, readings and discussions in the past. These are not graded for grammar but for curiosity, insight and rigor. The online Student Perceptions of Teaching (SPOT) questionnaire ( will is used to gather feedback on particular aspects of the course and instruction. I read and consider all student comments regarding the course and instruction.

A note about writing: College level writing assignments are to be professional, and in this class, written for a public audience and proofread. It is important that you only post or turn in a piece of writing that you are proud of. MLA citation style and size 12 Times New Roman font is to be used for all course assignments. Because we are (literally) across the globe in this course, I understand it may be difficult to visit the University Writing Center. I am glad to chat and virtually meet with you, as well as look at multiple drafts of assignments. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Online inclusion and decorum : Respectful online etiquette is expected. For more details on what online etiquette entails in the classroom, please visit:
Inclusive language (regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.) is expected in all settings. This includes using preferred pronouns in posts and conversations. If you are unsure of what this means or have questions I am glad to chat.

Principles of Community at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. Learning from the experiences that shape Virginia Tech as an institution, we acknowledge those aspects of our legacy that reflected bias and exclusion. Therefore, we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members:
• We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.
• We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
• We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University.
We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.
• We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.
We pledge our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Honor Code – I expect you to read and abide by the Virginia Tech honor code, which you can find at, for all work in this course. The honor code expressly prohibits:
• cheating, i.e., giving or receiving of any unauthorized assistance or unfair advantage;
• plagiarism, i.e., passing off the language, structure, ideas, or thoughts of another as one’s own;
• falsifying or tampering with records or purchasing academic work.
Conviction may result in probation; a failing grade; university service; suspension; dismissal from VT.

Plagiarism is completely unacceptable and will be addressed if suspected.

Special needs – If (because of a dis/ability or any other circumstance) you may require or would like to discuss arrangements different than those provided, please do not hesitate to email me. I am very glad to do whatever is necessary to create an inclusive learning space, however you must see me within two weeks of the start of the semester (or earlier!) as it may not be possible to honor requests for modifications made after this date. If a situation arises later in the semester, again, please contact me. We will find a way.

The instructor reserves the right to change or alter the syllabus as needed. Reasons for doing so include, but are not limited to weather, class interests and major events in the region. Any changes will be announced.

Each week we have independent readings and viewings. There is not a set schedule, but they should be done before Wednesday. You have a short, simple quiz on Wednesday to ensure you’ve understood the main points of the readings. If needed or requested I am glad to add supplemental materials (short lecture videos, handouts, etc.).

If the worksheet/quizzes indicate that the readings are not comprehended or there are gaps, this deadline allows me to work with you and clarify things. I enjoy working with students and look forward to our conversations. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Then, by midnight on Saturday, we will post public reflections to the class blog—you are encouraged to be creative with this. Each reflection will have a prompt to help guide you, however you are welcome to take your post in different directions. Please be aware, Appalachian scholars and the public will be interested in what you have to say—more on blogging and public scholarship is found below and on the Canvas site.

There are a few additional assignments: an album review, a final project (post), and event reflections/experiential learning. These are to help you apply the readings and theories to your own experiences this summer, wherever you may be. If you begin your projects early and read on Sunday-Tuesday, you should not have a problem keeping up. If we find there are issues with the schedule, I reserve the right to alter the pace of the course.

Themes and readings Assignment details
Key questions, keywords and reflection topics will be updated throughout through-out the course.
Week 1: July 5-8
Introductions | Settlements |Native Populations

 HMR Intro (1-6)
 Native Americans by C. Boyd (HMR, 7-16)
 Pioneer Settlement by T. Blethen (HMR, 1729)
 (USofA) Preface
 Chapter One Trail of Words (1-24) WATCH:

Chapter 2, USofA “The First Washington, D.C.” DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight: selfintroductions as a forum post (details on the forum); learning objectives

DUE SATURDAY: log into the blog and make sure you have the ability to post and upload. Please email me your user name and email and let me know if you have any issues. If issues are not reported, I will assume you haven’t had any issues. DUE midnight SATURDAY: first worksheet. This means you have until Saturday to complete and reflect on the assigned readings and film (approx. 80 pages)

WEEK 2: July 11-15
Civil War and Local Color

• Slavery and African Americans in the
Nineteenth Century by John C. Inscoe (HMR)
• The Civil War and Reconstruction by G McKinny (HMR)
• Chapter 4 (USofA) “The Emancipators”
• Chapter 5 (USofA) “All the News that’s Fit to Print”
***There will be supplemental handouts and a short video lecture available as well.*** DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight: worksheet DUE FRIDAY by midnight: first blog post on The post must be uploaded to the blog by midnight.

By midnight Saturday: Sign up for an album to review. You will need access to the album at least a week before the review is due. You will need to work on
WEEK 3: July 18-22
Industrialization by Ronald Lewis, Migration by
Obermiller (HMR)
Music by Bill Malone (HMR)
USofA Chapter 6—“The great American Industrial
Viewings and listening assignments, TBA. DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight:
DUE FRIDAY by midnight:
Blog post

Week 4: July 25-29
COAL, Organizing, & Resource Extraction Watch: Mine Wars –AND—
Read: USAppalachia “We Shall Overcome”

Optional/Supplemental: Harlan County, USA
DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight: timeline
(including this week’s readings)
DUE FRIDAY by midnight: album review Worksheet.

FYI: July 25th—THE LAST DAY to withdraw/resign without a grade penalty.

Week 5: August 1-5
Extractive Industries and Possible Solutions (thru today)
Read: HMR Modernization by Ronald Eller READ: 12 Steps by Helen Lewis.
Watch: The Last Mountain

Check out: Please find other examples of resilient communities to share! DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight:
OPTIONAL: Final Project Draft (this is the latest I can look at drafts of your final project. You are welcome to send drafts in
stages before week 5.)
DUE FRIDAY by midnight: experiential learning (a part of your larger place based project) should be posted to blog. Please upload any supplemental photos, etc.
Week 6: August 8-11
TODAY (application & synthesis) Read: DUE WEDNESDAY by midnight: worksheet
DUE FRIDAY by midnight: Final Project (uploaded as blog post)
You must be born again. (A poem by Jim Wayne
USofA “We Are All Appalachians”
Crystal Wilkinson (on Canvas)



Stranger with a Camera (film—it may help you immensely with your final project.)
DUE SATURDAY by midnight: Selfassessment (turned in via “assignments” on Canvas.)


Assignment Details (due dates also found in the course schedule)

Worksheets [due weekly] 20%
Weekly worksheets will be found on canvas. These may be quizzes or short answer assessments. This assignment serves to review and assess how well content is being understood and synthesized. These (in themselves) are a minimal time commitment, but all readings/viewings/listening’s are required for successful completion.

Critical Album Review 10%
The album. The record. Musicians will share that the tangible “thing” that fans, collectors and museums hold in their hands has traditionally been one of single greatest factors in measuring and obtaining a successful career. The album should be looked at as a material—for that reason it is imperative that you purchase of check out an actual compact disc. If the disc does not have liner notes, go to the record label or artist’s website or Facebook page to see how they represent themselves and how their fans talk about them and interact.
Please choose an album (or artist) that compels your attention as a scholar, critic and fan. Listen to the album in multiple settings—driving, in your room, cooking, etc. Read the liner notes, look at the images and begin to deconstruct the material as a whole text. You may have a positive or (overwhelmingly) negative reaction after engaging with the recording. That is perfectly “okay.” Perhaps you loved David Mayfield’s new album but feel he has lost his roots. Perhaps the lyrical content of the Infamous Stringduster’s seems lacking in depth but their instrumentals are fantastic. Perhaps you don’t enjoy the sound, but you are impressed by Blue Highway’s ability to evolve yet remain true to traditional “bluegrass” sounds. Explain your reactions—they are valid responses and deserve attention if they are situated in the course content and class discussions.
Each album should be assessed in relation to expectations of the producer, label, artist, etc. Note whether the album is DIY or produced by a multi-million-dollar agency and question what this means. Read the reviews of others (only after you have listened multiple times for yourself). Why do critics believe this album met or failed expectations? Most importantly, how is Appalachia constructed, reconstructed through this work? What stories are told? Who is telling them? Why is the album representative of a place? How do the feeling the album provokes reflect upon feelings about the region? Do the songs mention specific places or geographically situated norms or ideals? Who is buying the album? Why? These questions should get you started.
Requirements: Not only should this assignment be well-written, proof-read and cited, but it should be written as a record review. This means it begins with your interpretation (briefly), then explores the record, well-aware of the professional situation of the artist (is this their debut album? Fourth album this year?). Be critical, but more importantly, have fun! Expectations: 4-6 pages, double space, size 12 TNR font.

Reflections as blog posts [due weekly] ONLY 4 posts required.

These will be posted publicly to the “Studying Appalachia (Summer 2016) or as indicated on the syllabus. Please feel free to use an alternative name (I will need to know your email address and actual name.)
If submitting a written text only post without supplemental materials, try to write at least 300 words. These should not exceed 500 words and highlight key quotes, connections to your own life, or ideas found in the readings.
Please use videos, illustrations, or examples. You can also think of this as a journaling process. If you are able to connect the readings to your own experiences and disciplines that is awesome.
The goal of this assignment is to prepare you to be a public scholar while engaging with the highly public discipline of Appalachian Studies. I invite you all to consider attending the Appalachian Studies Association conference in March, held here at Virginia Tech

Self-Assessment and Personal Objectives [due: Week 1—what are your objectives? Week 6— self assessment]
This is an assignment which requires you to synthesize the entire session and filter your experiences and growth through your discipline and life goals. In your “getting to know you” post, please share what objectives or goals you have for the course. This can of course, change as we progress.
The last week a self-assessment is due. Details are on canvas. Think of it as a 2-3 page letter to the instructor on the ways you have evolved as a result of the readings, discussions, and other course activities. These are not public, but turned in privately.

Final Project:
Your final product must be uploaded to the blog. The community you studied, the places you went to, and your peers will be very interested in your work.

Details found on canvas.