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Cornbread & Sushi: A Journey through the Rural South  is a collaborative product of the Cornbread & Sushi Seminar at Wofford College 2005-06. The book was made possible by the vision and generosity of the Watson-Brown Foundation.

'Cornbread and Sushi' hits the road for Interim 2007

Students search for real South (The Daily Progress - Charlottesville, Va.)

South Different, but still kickin' (Hilton Head (SC) Island Packet)

Foreward, In Which I Ramble

by Dr. Deno Trakas


            At one of President Bernie Dunlap’s advisory meetings to discuss the arts at Wofford, Tad Brown came up with the idea: why don’t John and Deno design a course in which they teach about the rural South using contemporary writers—the Watson-Brown Foundation might fund it. He said this to Dr. Dunlap, who is a tireless and devoted seeker of art and truth, and money to support them. The President relayed the message to us. John went home and banged out a draft of a proposal. And now here we are at the end of the first year of Cornbread and Sushi.

            It’s been a great ride. In the fall we taught a seminar with twenty curious students. We read stories and essays and asked questions such as these: Is the past dead or still alive in the rural South? What’s the appeal of the rural South that has caused so many to celebrate it in fiction, prose, and poetry? Is Wal-Mart’s march through the South as destructive as Sherman’s? And finally, borrowing from Lee Smith, what does it mean to the South today that you are just as likely to find a sushi restaurant on the town square as a meat-and-three with good cornbread?

            We also asked these questions of our sixteen distinguished guest speakers: philosopher/historian Jack Temple Kirby, creative activist Janisse Ray, Professor Jim Proctor of the Success Initiative, Professor of English William Koon, Professor of History Melissa Walker, novelist George Singleton, novelist Dori Sanders, Chaplain Ron Robinson, novelist/poet Ron Rash, Professor of Sociology Gerald Thurmond, English Professor/musician Steve Harvey, former Wofford President/historian Joab Lesesne, Vice President/political historian Don Fowler, Professor of Religion/columnist Larry McGehee, journalist Hal Crowther, and novelist Lee Smith. Their essays, stories, and lectures helped us define our place and our people. They filled us with ideas, anecdotes, and reasons to believe. It was almost too much, almost overwhelming, so we added a week of Southern music starring Little Pink Anderson, Robbie Fulks, Jason Ringenberg, Fayssoux McClean, and Baker Maultsby.

            In January we hit the road. We rented a couple of vans and took ten of our students and professional photographer Mark Olencki on several day trips and one ten-day journey mostly through the rural South. We counted road kill because it was sad and funny, respectful and silly. We saw way too many dead possums, dogs, deer and USBs (unidentified small blobs). We also saw a suspected platypus, and, as William Gay pointed out, “You get a lot of points for spotting a platypus.”

            Whereas the fall seminar was simply fantastic, the January interim was phenomenal, and the evidence is here to behold. This book, this scrapbook/anthology, which we’ve put together and will give away, was the third and final stage of Cornbread and Sushi—it’s a sample and a testament to what we read, saw, heard, and felt from the wild wilderness of north Georgia, to the serene sandy bank of the Mississippi, to the ravages of Katrina on the Gulf coast; from the home of William Gay to the home of William Faulkner; from the garden of Eudora Welty to the front porch of Flannery O’Connor. Our students were wonderful traveling companions, never complaining about quick-stop sandwiches or two-star motels and constantly entertaining us with brilliant, hilarious, inane van chatter. We wish we could keep them with us and do it again but, alas, this course of cornbread & sushi is over. We’re full and satisfied.