Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Appalachia: Development, Decline, and Identity in American Culture

Course Number: 66-145

The Appalachian region, which stretches from Georgia to New York's southern tier, has a particular place in American history and memory. This course will examine the political, literary, economic, and historical narratives that surround the region, as well as examining the role that Appalachia can play as a model for developing regions in other parts of the world.

The paradoxes of Appalachia have confronted American culture since its first settlement by Europeans in the 18th century: a region of unparalleled biodiversity, it has nevertheless been characterized by ongoing poverty and isolation. Politically, it has given rise to both progressive collective action and conservative rhetoric. Economically, its natural resources have been widely exploited by outside economic and industrial interests. Its inhabitants have been characterized as either fiercely independent or widely dysfunctional, giving rise to the archetypes of Mountaineers, Rednecks, or Hillbillies. Its cultural ethos has resisted ready inclusion into mainstream culture.

This course will examine these paradoxes by utilizing history, literature, and public policy documents that detail the ongoing debates surrounding Appalachian development, while consulting with several invited writers, political figures, and artists who have interpreted the region’s role in American history.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Spring