Project Abstract

The project will develop a course for the Finding Your Place (FYP) Program at Sewanee, entitled, “Medieval Sewanee.” It will research the planning of the University, the choices that created the architectural and cultural environment of Sewanee, and the effects on students, faculty, staff and community.┬áIt will locate and identify important texts held in the library and in the special collections and archives. It will then organize and thematize them so that students participating in the FYP course can examine them and assess their value. Various field trips will be planned, both on the Domain and off, to show how Sewanee has worked to keep its Domain free from various markers of modernity (especially the heavy industry) which drove the economy of the nearby valleys. Finally, it will collect various literary works that discuss the medieval basis of the university, and the medieval roots of notions of Southern gentility and nobility, especially among the slave-holding plantation owners who supplied so much of Sewanee’s original capital. This will educate Sewanee students, especially in regards to the founding and history of the university, but also on the relationship between “town and gown,” and Southern culture in general. Finally, students will learn to negotiate the Domain, the Special Collections and Archives, and the nearby geography, and skills of reading closely.

Project Alignment with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies

First of all, the project is grounded in the place of Sewanee. Beyond the campus, however, the project will examine how the relationship of the university with nearby towns, industries, and persons was and is shaped by the University’s commitment to its “medieval” culture. For instance, it will examine how the maintenance and protection of the domain accords with the protection of noble parks in the Middle Ages, with similar restrictions on the rights of nearby village and town dwellers, and how discourses of Southern nobility and gentility, familiar from the plantation, could be transported to the different economy and terrain of Southern Appalachia.

Project Impact

The goals of this project are 1) to provide incoming students with a lens through which to view Sewanee’s history, culture, and environment; 2) to further research the creation and culture of the campus, and its relationship to its historical and literary context; 3) to investigate the relationship of the campus to its Appalachian environment, especially the forms of modern industry (such as slavery, mining, and forestry) that provided the capital for Sewanee’s physical campus.

The course will first be offered during the FYP 2018 term.