The University of Alabama Press is pleased to announce The Blues Muse: Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry by Emily Ruth Rutter as the recipient of the 2017 Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature.

Awarded annually by UAP’s faculty editorial board to the manuscript chosen as representing outstanding scholarship in the field of American literary studies, the Elizabeth Agee Prize was established by the Stubbs and Agee families to honor longtime Birmingham bookseller Elizabeth Agee who described herself as “a reader and lover of books.”

Rutter’s analysis focuses on five key blues musicians and singers—Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, and Lead Belly—and traces the ways in which these artists and their personas have been invoked and developed throughout American poetry. She traces the evolution of the poetic invocation of blues muses through a succession of cultural eras, political climates, and artistic movements, asking how and why these protean blues figures change shape both within and across generations. Drawing on the work of poets Langston Hughes, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Harryette Mullen, Terrance Hayes, and many more as a guide, Rutter discusses topics such as the poetic renderings of black struggle, the constantly evolving notions of authenticity, and the portrayal of blues artists as heroic symbols of African American resistance.

Agee Prize committee member Philip Beidler said of the project “From its engaging title onward, Emily Rutter’s The Blues Muse: Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry, proves itself a model of engaging twenty-first-century scholarship, connecting legendary figures in the Blues musical tradition with innovative modernist poets. Accordingly, in exploring the poetic constructions of blues icons it adventurously explores contemporary relationships of the era in the discourses of race and gender.”E.Rutter.Author Photo

Emily Ruth Rutter is assistant professor of English at Ball State University. She is the author of Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line.

The Blues Muse will be available from The University of Alabama Press in October.

Recent Winners of the Elizabeth Agee Prize

2016 • Harry Thomas Jr., Sissy! The Effeminate Paradox in Postwar US Literature and Culture

2015 • Brian Kim Stefans, Word Toys: Poetry and Technics

2014 • Elizabeth Swanstrom, Animal, Vegetable, Digital: Experiments in New Media Aesthetics and Environmental Poetics

2013 • Keith Michael Green, Bound to Respect: Antebellum Narratives of Black Imprisonment, Servitude, and Bondage, 1816–1861

2012 • Co-winners: Trudier Harris, Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism, and African American Literature and Kate Charlton-Jones, Dismembering the American Dream: The Life and Fiction of Richard Yates

2011 • Bruce Barnhart, Jazz in the Time of the Novel: The Temporal Politics of American Race and Culture




Jkt_Hollars_mktgThe University of Alabama Press is pleased to announce B. J. Hollars as the recipient of the 2017 Anne B. & James B. McMillan Prize in Southern History for his recently published book The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders.

The UAP Faculty Editorial Board has awarded the Anne B. & James B. McMillan Prize annually since 1995 to the manuscript chosen as the Most Deserving in Alabama or Southern History or Culture. The McMillan prize was established to honor James B. McMillan, founding director of the University of Alabama Press, former chairman of the university’s English department, and a renowned dialectologist. It has recognized books on such diverse topics as Southern Baptists, civil rights, religion, Alabama politics, southern missionaries, and southeastern archaeology.

McMillan Prize committee member Lesley Gordon praised the work, calling it an “immensely moving and memorable book.” Gordon went on to say, “The Road South combines powerful oral history with the very personal journey that the author engages in as he meets and converses one-on-one with surviving Freedom Riders. We read not only stories of the past but also reflections on today, emphasizing the lasting legacy of the civil rights movement.”

The Road South offers an intimate look into the lives and legacies of the Freedom Riders. Hollars retraced the historic route and learned the stories of as many surviving riders as he could. Throughout the text these civil rights veterans’ poignant, personal stories offer timely insights into America’s racial past and hopeful future.

Weaving the past with the present, Hollars aims to demystify the legendary journey, while also confronting more modern concerns related to race in America. Part memoir and part research-based journalism, the book transcends the traditional textbook version of this historical journey to highlight the fascinating stories of the many riders—both black and white—who risked their lives to move the country forward.

Hollars_Author_PhotoB.J. Hollars is an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is the author of several books including Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America; Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa; Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds; From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us about Life, Death, and Being Human, among others.

The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders is now available from The University of Alabama Press.


2016 • Martin T. Oliff, Getting Out of the Mud: The Alabama Good Roads Movement and Highway Administration, 1898–1928

2015 • Edwin C. Bridges, Alabama: The Making of an American State

2014 • Christopher Lyle McIlwain Sr., Civil War Alabama

2013 • Susan M. Abram, Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal

2012 • Glenn Feldman, The Irony of the Solid South: Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865–1944

2011 • Andrew H. M. Stern, Southern Crucifix, Southern Cross: Catholic-Protestant Relations in the Old South

A Conversation with John C. Havard

Jkt_Havard_mktgJohn C. Havard, is an associate professor in the Department of English and Philosophy at Auburn University at Montgomery and the author of Hispanicism and Early US Literature: Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and the Origins of US National Identity. His new book is a well-researched analysis of the impact that Spain and Spanish America had on antebellum literature in the United States.

More than just a work of literary criticism, Hispanicism and Early US Literature contains a substantial amount of cultural and political history discussed. Havard’s use of archival sources such as political articles and personal correspondence elucidates not just literary genres and movements such as early national epic poetry, abolitionist fiction, and the American Renaissance, but also US culture writ large.

The following is an interview with Havard conducted by UAP intern Megan McCarter.

What first made you notice the lack of attention given to the treatment of Hispanophone countries in discussions of race and othering within early American literature?

My academic background is different than that of many early Americanists, most of whom majored and then did their graduate work in English. I studied English as an undergraduate, but I also had an additional major in Spanish; as part of that major, I studied abroad in Xalapa, Mexico. Moreover, when I began graduate studies, I initially studied comparative literature, with a focus on Latin American literature. These experiences prepared me to pay closer than usual attention to US literary treatments of Hispanophone countries when I moved into an English PhD program.

One of my key experiences when I began noticing the pattern of Hispanicism in US literature occurred while I was studying Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” in preparation to take my PhD comprehensive exams. As I read the scholarship on this work, I noticed that most of the discussion of its treatment of race and othering focused on Amasa Delano’s attitudes regarding blackness. However, it seemed clear to me that what Melville was examining is how US American, Spaniard, and African triangulate in Delano’s racial sight. I later discovered that a handful of scholars had written important studies of the tale’s treatment of Spain and Spanish America. However, the experience of studying the work illustrated to me that scholars of race and nation in US literature had overlooked the representation of Hispanophone peoples in favor of African Americans and, to a lesser degree, Native Americans.

Why do you think these Hispanicist narratives have been so largely overlooked?

I should clarify that Hispanicism is not the only narrative overlooked in US culture. US national memory has a tendency to obscure many of our national traumas and tragedies. For instance, as recent contentions over Confederate monuments illustrate, many white US Americans still downplay the horrors of slavery and struggle to acknowledge its role in causing the Civil War. Lost Cause ideology—an ideology premised precisely on overlooking tragic narratives of racial injustice—still has many adherents.

However, the difference between Hispanicism and Lost Cause ideology is that whereas the nature of slavery and the Civil War are furiously debated in US culture, similar such incidents in the history of conflict between Anglo-Americans and Hispanophone peoples are given much less attention. For instance, as Jaime Javier Rodríguez writes in The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War (U of Texas P, 2010), “the U.S.-Mexican War remains largely, and infamously, unknown by most citizens of the United States.” Rodríguez elaborates that “The U.S.-Mexican War draws interest from some historians, but when compared to the regular dramatizations of the revolution against England, the Civil War, or the Second World War, the U.S.-Mexican War remains collectively elided” (257n1). This elision is just one example of a Hispanicist narrative being overlooked in our culture.Havard, John

Why are these narratives overlooked? The turning point in national awareness of the treatment of African Americans was the Civil Rights era, when activists challenged Lost Cause constructions of slavery and the Jim Crow recalcification of white supremacy. Their efforts—and the violent response of Southern authorities to their demonstrations—spurred a national reckoning with the history of slavery and Jim Crow that remains ongoing to this day.

Hispanic (as well as Native American) activism was a part of the Civil Rights movement, but perhaps due the proportionately smaller size of these populations, their efforts did not become as big a part of the national conversation as those of African Americans. The reckoning with the history of overlooking Hispanicism did not occur in the same way that it did with Lost Cause ideology. However, with the Mexican American population rising around the country and with immigration poised to be one of the primary political battlegrounds of the future, the time is now for such a reckoning. More scholarship and public discussion on the history of Anglo American relations with the Hispanophone world is occurring now than ever before, and my book is part of that effort. Continue reading