Alan B. Howard
This edition of Cultural Objects, We Doin' Alright: The South in the Depression, is presented by students in the capstone seminar in the American Studies undergraduate program at the University of Virginia. This course had an unusually rocky beginning. The instructor originally slated to teach it became seriously ill and I filled in for her; since I couldn't actually have taught the course she had designed, the students and I had to make something up on the spot. After some discussion, we decided to focus on the South in the Depression and I was detailed to come up with introductory readings that would frame the discussion and their projects. Although I have taught Southern Literature for some years, I was learning along side my students. They deserve a great deal of credit for their patience with me and for the innumerable ways in which they picked up the slack.
In the end, what emerged was, on the one hand, a group of eight students creating the first hypertext edition of The Guide to the Old Dominion, a volume in the famous Guide Series produced by the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Writers Project. They began by converting the whole of this 700+ page volume to digital text, formatting and inter-linking it, then focused on two cities Charlottesville and Williamsburg, attempting to amplify The Guide's portrayal of them by exploring everyday life in these communities. At the same time, the remaining students in the class each chose individual projects that ranged from an account of the Federal Resettlement Administration town of Aberdeen Gardens to an account of the discovery of the Appalachian Folk in this period.
The result is not exactly a comprehensive view of the South in the Depression, but a mosaic of different aspects of this larger topic. My own hope is that, at some later date and with some other American Studies class, we'll be able to re-visit the topic and build on what has been done here. But, as it stands, it seems to me an unusually interesting and useful body of work.
We welcome comments and suggestions for further development.
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