Dr. Hugh Davis
Assistant Professor of English
Faculty Advisor, Piedmont College Film Club
Office: Daniel 201-D
Phone: (706) 778-8500 x 1271
Ph.D., University of Tennessee (2005)
English with concentrations in Twentieth-century American and British literature, Southern literature, and Modernist historiography
M.A., University of Alabama (1993)
B.A., Belhaven College (1989)
English and Classical Languages
Modernist and avant-garde literature and art; Southern and Appalachian literature and culture; photography; film; the grotesque; documentary form and expression; literary theory
ENG 101: Rednecks, Hillbillies, and Georgia Crackers: The South and Its Representations from the Bottom Up
Drawing on history, folklore, literature, film, music, and other media, this course investigates the culture of the American South from the perspective of the group commonly known as “poor white trash.” By paying particular attention to the Scots-Irish origins of southern culture, we seek to understand how the history of the region continues to inform the present, even as we look forward to the ways in which southern identity is changing in the face of twenty-first-century challenges. Topics of study include the origins of NASCAR; moonshine; the history and cultural implications of the Rebel flag; musicians such as Loretta Lynn, Elvis Presley, and Lynyrd Skynyrd; films such as Sling Blade, A Face in the Crowd, Harlan County, U.S.A.; and O Brother, Where Art Thou?; representations of the South in popular culture such as The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show; short stories by Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner; and the novel Child of God by Cormac McCarthy.
ENG 101: The Documentary
In this course, students examine the history, formal qualities, and ethics of documentary expression. Paying particular attention to “real life” and its representation, as well as the ethical questions inherent in the documentary form, we will analyze photography by figures such as Shelby Lee Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Margaret Bourke-White; photo-text collaborations such as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Wisconsin Death Trip; and documentary films by Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven), Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski (Born into Brothels), Doug Pray (Surfwise), and Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man). In addition to researching and writing contextual and rhetorical analyses of individual works, students also produce an original fifteen-minute film documentary of their own and present it to the class.
ENG 102: Southern Literature in Black and White
From slavery to Jim Crow, from the Civil Rights movement to today’s controversies over the Confederate battle flag, race has been a central concern—if not the single defining issue—of southern history and literature. By alternating (to the degree possible) works by black and white writers in chronological order, this course serves as an introductory literary history of race relations in the South. Students read, research, and write about works in multiple genres—stories by Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Richard Wright, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty; autobiographical works by Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs; novels by James Weldon Johnson and Larry Brown; poetry by Yusef Komunyakaa and the Affrilachian poets; and films including Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, and Mississippi Burning—in order to more fully understand a variety of perspectives on the constantly evolving question of what it means to “tell about the South.”
ENG 102: Freaks
In this course, students examine literature focusing on outsiders, deviants, and freaks: in other words, characters who are alienated from or marginalized by mainstream society and who resist, knowingly or not, the “tyranny of the normal.” We cover such topics as the grotesque body, family and social dysfunction, insanity, depravity, murder, suicide, and how people smell. Authors include Euripides, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Charles Baudelaire, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, Sam Shepard, and Patrick Süskind. In addition to written texts, we also study representations of the grotesque in other media, including the photography of Diane Arbus, paintings by Frida Kahlo, theatrical performances of The Tempest and To Kill a Mockingbird, clips from The Twilight Zone and The Simpsons, and films such as Murderball, Monster, and Little Miss Sunshine.
ENG 405: Shakespeare on Film
In this course, students analyze selected works of Shakespeare through the lens of modern and postmodern film adaptations. Films include Scotland, PA, which recasts Shakespeare’s treatment of ambition in Macbeth as a critique of consumer culture set in a 1970s fast-food restaurant; Omkara, a Bollywood adaptation of Othello that, among other things, transforms the original into an examination of the ambiguous legacy of British imperialism in India; the cult classic My Own Private Idaho, which emphasizes the carnivalesque elements of Henry IV, Part I by relocating the play to the world of homeless gay street hustlers in Portland, Oregon; Forbidden Planet, which reimagines The Tempest as a Freud-inflected space opera; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s existentialist study of Hamlet’s language games; and Karol Lir, Grigori Kozintsev’s devastating version of King Lear, to which the only response (as with the original) is grief beyond words: “Howl, howl, howl, howl!” By reading the plays and discussing them in relation to these wide-ranging adaptations, students gain insight into how cultural factors influence interpretation and how what seem to be radical departures from the text actually highlight and comment on Shakespeare’s original concerns.
ENG 428: Twentieth-Century American Literature
This course charts the development of American literature over the twentieth century, paying particular attention to Modernism (in its various strains), the Harlem Renaissance, and the Beat Generation. Works covered include the poetry of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath; plays by Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire), Amiri Baraka (Dutchman), and Sam Shepard (True West); and the following novels: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Black No More by George Schuyler, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and White Noise by Don DeLillo.
ENG 480: Literary Criticism
This course traces the history of literary criticism in the Western tradition from Plato to Baudrillard. Beginning with the Greeks, the first third of the course covers historically important critics such as Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Dante, Sidney, and Pope and tracks their influence into the nineteenth century. The remainder of the class is devoted to major literary, cultural, psychological, and linguistic theorists of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, including Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Saussure, Lacan, Bakhtin, Cixous, Gilbert and Gubar, Derrida, Barthes, and Fish. Students learn to apply various theoretical approaches to selected poems and short fiction, as well as to two novels: John Fowles’s masterpiece of historiographic metafiction, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Italo Calvino’s postmodernist hall of mirrors, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.
Editor, The Works of James Agee, Volume 2: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Gen. ed. Michael A. Lofaro. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, forthcoming (2012).
The Making of James Agee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008.
Coeditor, with Michael A. Lofaro, James Agee Rediscovered: The Journals of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Other New Manuscripts. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2005.
“‘Drinking at Wells Sunk beneath Privies’: Agee and Surrealism,” in Agee Agonistes: Essays on the Life, Legend, and Works of James Agee. Ed. Michael A. Lofaro. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007. 85–104.
“‘How Do You Sniff?’: Havelock Ellis and Olfactory Imagery in ‘Nausicaa,’” James Joyce Quarterly 41.3 (Spring 2004): 421–40.
“‘She Rock’: A ‘New’ Story by Zora Neale Hurston,’” Zora Neale Hurston Forum 18 (2004): 14–20.
“Allusive Resonance in the Woodcut to Spenser’s Aprill,” in Renaissance Papers 2000. Ed. M. Thomas Hester. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2000. 25–40.