S&T researcher publishes book about good old boys, rednecks and southern gentlemen

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On December 1, 2008

Dr. Trent Watts, assistant professor in the department of English and technical communication at Missouri University of Science and Technology, recently published a book titled White Masculinity in the Recent South.

In the book, 13 scholars of history, literature, film and environmental studies examine such stereotypes as the good old boy, the redneck and the southern gentleman. From southern Protestant churches to the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the book explores ways that white southern manhood has been experienced and represented since World War II.

As a native of Mississippi, Watts’ ideas for the book grew from his interest in the history of the 20th century South. He hopes this study will help shape research in the history of gender in the recent South, a relatively new field.

“It is a project that grew out of an issue I have thought about as long as I’ve been alive,” says Watts. “The book stems from personal questions as well as scholarly questions about being a white man in the South.”

The book, which is published by Louisiana State University Press, contains essays that explore ways in which white men have acted in response to personal and cultural conceptions of manhood. Topics include neo-Confederates, the novels of William Faulkner, gay southern men, football coaching, deer hunting, church camps, college fraternities and white men’s responses to the civil rights movement.

According to Watts, a lot of white southern men will see something of themselves or people they know in the essays contained in the book.

“Putting together a collection like this one is a great opportunity to meet new people and to work with old friends as well,” says Watts.

The book includes an essay by late Missouri S&T English professor Larry Vonalt, who was, according to Watts, tremendously helpful and encouraging in the early stages of the project.

Watts says he has been pleased by the reception that the book has enjoyed. In October, he appeared at two festivals, the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville and the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, to discuss his ideas.

Watts’ next project, a book on the history of sex and sexuality in the recent South, will also be published by Louisiana State University Press.

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