New! “Educating the Sons of Sugar” by R. Eric Platt


A study of Louisiana French Creole sugar planters’ role in higher education and a detailed history of the only college ever constructed to serve the sugar elite

The education of individual planter classes—cotton, tobacco, sugar—is rarely treated in works of southern history. Of the existing literature, higher education is typically relegated to a footnote, providing only brief glimpses into a complex instructional regime responsive to wealthy planters. R. Eric Platt’s Educating the Sons of Sugar allows for a greater focus on the mindset of French Creole sugar planters and provides a comprehensive record and analysis of a private college supported by planter wealth.

Jefferson College was founded in St. James Parish in 1831, surrounded by slave-holding plantations and their cash crop, sugar cane. Creole planters (regionally known as the “ancienne population”) designed the college to impart a “genteel” liberal arts education through instruction, architecture, and geographic location. Jefferson College played host to social class rivalries (Creole, Anglo-American, and French immigrant), mirrored the revival of Catholicism in a region typified by secular mores, was subject to the “Americanization” of south Louisiana higher education, and reflected the ancienne population’s decline as Louisiana’s ruling population.

Resulting from loss of funds, the college closed in 1848. It opened and closed three more times under varying administrations (French immigrant, private sugar planter, and Catholic/Marist) before its final closure in 1927 due to educational competition, curricular intransigence, and the 1927 Mississippi River flood. In 1931, the campus was purchased by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and reopened as a silent religious retreat. It continues to function to this day as the Manresa House of Retreats. While in existence, Jefferson College was a social thermometer for the white French Creole sugar planter ethos that instilled the “sons of sugar” with a cultural heritage resonant of a region typified by the management of plantations, slavery, and the production of sugar.

R. Eric Platt is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of Sacrifice and Survival: Identity, Mission, and Jesuit Higher Education in the American South.

“Owing to the fascinating history of Jefferson College and Platt’s compelling biographical chapters on Louis Dufau and Valcour Aime, Educating the Sons of Sugar is a welcome addition to Louisiana historiography.”
—Caryn Cossé Bell, author of Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718–1868

“A fascinating and well-written institutional history, which will also serve as a vital contribution to the new wave of Creole studies and the history of multiculturalism in South Louisiana.”
—Rien Fertel, author of Imagining the Creole City: The Rise of Literary Culture in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

312 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1966-3 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9151-5 Ebook


New! “Sissy! The Effeminate Paradox in Postwar US Literature and Culture”

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature

An innovative exploration of postwar representations of effeminate men and boys

Sissy! The Effeminate Paradox in Postwar US Literature and Culture expands on recent cultural criticism that focuses on the ways men and boys deemed to be feminine have been—and continue to be—condemned for their personalities and behavior. Critic Harry Thomas Jr. does not dismiss this approach, but rather identifies it as merely one side of a coin. On the other side, he asserts, the opposite exists: an American artistic tradition that celebrates and affirms effeminate masculinity.

The author argues that effeminate men and boys are generally portrayed using the grotesque, an artistic mode concerned with the depictions of hybrid bodies. Thomas argues that the often grotesque imagery used to depict effeminate men evokes a complicated array of emotions, a mix of revulsion and fascination that cannot be completely separated from one another.

Thomas looks to the sissies in the 1940s novels of Truman Capote and Carson McCullers; the truth-telling flaming princesses of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room; the superstardom of pop culture icon Liberace; the prophetic queens of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America; and many others to demonstrate how effeminate men have often been adored because they are seen as the promise of a different world, one free from the bounds of heteronormativity.

Sissy! offers an unprecedented and counterintuitive overview of cultural and artistic attitudes toward male effeminacy in post–World War II America and provides a unique and contemporary reinterpretation of the “sissy” figure in modern art and literature.

Harry Thomas Jr. received his Ph.D. in American literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches high school English at Durham Academy and sponsors the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance. His work has been published in Twentieth Century Literature, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Rolling Stone.

“In an era of increasing gender tumult, Sissy! The Effeminate Paradox in Postwar US Literature and Culture represents a rumination on the nature and consequences of effeminacy that is both relevant and timely.”
—Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears, and Leathermen: Men in Community Queering the Masculine

“A much-needed intervention in the exploration of male femininity in US literature and culture from World War II to the present. Importantly, it helps to explain the ways that both mainstream American culture and gay culture continue to blur the lines between gender and sexuality in constructions of nonnormative and, as Thomas usefully calls them, ‘hegemonic’ masculinities.”
—Michael P. Bibler, author of Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936–1968

264 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1963-2 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9148-5 Ebook

New! “Here I Stand: The Life and Legacy of John Beecher”

Biography of a forgotten poet who used his name and influence to speak up for those on the margins of society

Few surnames resonate in American history more than Beecher. The family’s abolitionist ministers, educators, and writers are central figures in the historical narrative of the United States. The Beechers’ influence was greatest in the nineteenth century, but the family story continued—albeit with less public attention—with a descendant who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during the early twentieth century.

John Beecher (1904–1980) never had the public prominence of his famous ancestors, but as a poet, professor, sociologist, New Deal administrator, journalist, and civil rights activist, he spent his life fighting for the voiceless and oppressed with a distinct moral sensibility that reflected his self-identification as the twentieth-century torchbearer for his famous family. While John Beecher had many vocations in his lifetime, he always considered himself a poet and a teacher. Some critics have compared the populist elements of Beecher’s poetry to the work of Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg, but his writing never gained a broad audience or critical acclaim during his lifetime.

In Here I Stand: The Life and Legacy of John Beecher, Angela J. Smith examines Beecher’s writing and activism and places them in the broader context of American culture at pivotal points in the twentieth century. Employing his extensive letters, articles, unpublished poetry and prose, and audio interviews in addition to his numerous published books, Smith uncovers a record of public concerns in American history ranging from the plight of workers in 1920s steel mills to sharecroppers’ struggles during the Depression to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Angela J. Smith is an associate professor of history at North Dakota State University, where she heads the public history program and teaches courses in twentieth-century American history and public history.

“A much needed biographical study of an overlooked activist and protest poet during the long civil rights movement.”
—Christopher G. Diller, editor of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Broadview edition)

ISBN: 978-0-8173-1954-0 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9137-9 Ebook