SP20 The Search for Something Hidden: Reading Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders

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Tuesday April 7

6:00 PM  –  8:00 PM

The Search for Something Hidden: Reading Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders

Instructor: Tom Rash

Tuesdays, April 7, 14, 21, 28, 6 – 8 p.m.

$98 Member | $118 Non-member

Limit: 12 students

BRN Elective - 4 Hours


In Our Southern Highlanders, Horace Kephart sets out to write a realistic yet colorful account of the landscape and people of the southern Appalachian mountains. It is, without doubt, an important study of the flora, fauna and geography of the then remote land. Most, but not all, readers agree that his narrative also captures, without sentiment, the character of the people among whom Kephart lived.  As interesting as the narrative itself, however, is the man who wrote it. Kephart, sharing Huck Finn’s fear of being “civilized,” left behind a wife and six children to pursue a life of contemplative solitude, honing hardship and genuine connection. Several questions will underlie our discussions: Does any outsider ever have the right to tell another people’s story? What was Kephart, who when younger suffered a nervous breakdown, escaping from and to? Did Kephart in any way reinforce the “hillbilly” stereotype, and why is it that this stereotype has persisted when others have been assailed? Such questions aside, however, we will allow ourselves simply to enjoy Kephart’s engaging pursuit of a life lived free of sham.

Required text: Our Southern Highlanders by Horace Kephart (University of Tennessee Press edition with introduction by George Ellison strongly recommended by the instructor)

Recommended text: Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography by George Ellison and Janet McCue

Purchase of these texts is available through Adult Education Programs. If you choose to purchase on your own, we recommend Malaprop's Bookstore, where Arboretum members can receive a 10% discount on their purchase.

Tom Rash graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in English and completed his master’s in English at Clemson University. A book reviewer and essayist, he has taught English and writing at Clemson University, A-B Tech Community College, and Shaw University. Rash has worked as a freelance editor since 1985 and is the owner and managing editor of Asheville Editing. His editing clients include his brother, award-winning author Ron Rash. Tom is also currently working on a documentary film detailing the influence of Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel.


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