Participation Type

Paper

Session Title

Session 10.02 Folklore and Folkways

About the Presenter

Cynda S. DouglasFollow

Presentation #1 Title

A New Look at Those Hackneyed Hillbillies

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

The hillbilly image is one that has elicited a wide range of responses since its inception. Depicted in many ways that are viewed as stereotypical, some find the typecasts of the Appalachian hillbilly to be harmful and regrettable. But, my purpose is to take a second look at the tired clichés of the American hillbilly fool. For example, scholars believe that the hillbilly “fool” is a direct descendant of the English court fool, who was meant to entertain, serve as a scapegoat, and bring humor through its opposition to the hierarchal structures and conformities of life. The fool was meant to mirror society, and that image could flatter or humiliate. The hillbilly is no different in its reflection. My aim is to bring an understanding to that mirror image and embrace its significance, rather than trivialize it as an unfortunate character whose misinterpretations are propagated to this day. While the archetype of this bucolic character is largely misunderstood, it is a very fluid one that deserves another look. Its history is rooted in everything from conjectured etymology, to geographical studies, various genres of literature, and even pop culture. Mine is an examination of the hillbilly’s delineation over the past few centuries based on such research. It culminates in a belief that the hillbilly is a paradoxical figure that is very much needed in a nation that is full of many incongruous stereotypes.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Born and raised in Romney, WV, Cynda Douglas was able to continue her passion for Appalachian studies while earning her M.A. in English and composing her thesis on Appalachian women in literature and folklore at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She currently resides in Northern Virginia and is in her fifteenth year of teaching high school English and journalism.

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Mar 30th, 8:30 AM Mar 30th, 9:45 AM

A New Look at Those Hackneyed Hillbillies

Corbly Hall 466

The hillbilly image is one that has elicited a wide range of responses since its inception. Depicted in many ways that are viewed as stereotypical, some find the typecasts of the Appalachian hillbilly to be harmful and regrettable. But, my purpose is to take a second look at the tired clichés of the American hillbilly fool. For example, scholars believe that the hillbilly “fool” is a direct descendant of the English court fool, who was meant to entertain, serve as a scapegoat, and bring humor through its opposition to the hierarchal structures and conformities of life. The fool was meant to mirror society, and that image could flatter or humiliate. The hillbilly is no different in its reflection. My aim is to bring an understanding to that mirror image and embrace its significance, rather than trivialize it as an unfortunate character whose misinterpretations are propagated to this day. While the archetype of this bucolic character is largely misunderstood, it is a very fluid one that deserves another look. Its history is rooted in everything from conjectured etymology, to geographical studies, various genres of literature, and even pop culture. Mine is an examination of the hillbilly’s delineation over the past few centuries based on such research. It culminates in a belief that the hillbilly is a paradoxical figure that is very much needed in a nation that is full of many incongruous stereotypes.