Study Away introduces summer moonshine course

Brittany Eldridge

A new study away course has come to WKU for the summer of 2014. 

The course, Moonshine in Literature and Film, has every intention of dissecting the perceptions of the American South and the portrayal of moonshiners. 

 The course will be taught by Assistant English Professor Jerod Hollyfield and Associate Professor Anthony Harkins of the History Department. 

This course will count for three credits in one of three different courses: English 399, Popular Culture Studies 399 or Film 399.

The class runs from July 14 to Aug. 2. This is the cheapest study away course offered at WKU — $1,450, which includes the undergraduate tuition for the three credit hours, room and board during the travel, entrance fees, transportation and some group meals. 

During the first half of the course,  students will respond to a variety of materials such as short stories, nonfiction essays, film, novels, TV series  and music. The course syllabus, which is available on the study away website, lists a number of texts that will complement the course, one being a novel written by Professor Harkins, “Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon.” 

Hollyfield, who was familiar with Harkins’ book, collaborated with the history professor to create the moonshine course.

 “I knew that Doctor Harkins had written the book, and I knew that it was being brought to Western,” Hollyfield said.  

Hollyfield has had a growing interest in moonshine culture, particularly in the settler/colonial setting. He said those figures came from a marginalized culture, not accepting of southerners who moved to the North.

“At the same time, a lot of the problems that came from that region  racially were because of the fact that this was a culture that already felt marginalized,” he said. “They saw these other populations as a threat. So I was thinking about the moonshiner in a post colonial context and did some research…I thought it would be a really good opportunity.” 

Because moonshining is illegal in the United States, the professors added certain stipulations and student agreements to the course.

“We talked to study away about the course and it didn’t sound like there were any legal issues,” Harkins said. “There is a liability form which students will say that they’re not going to do anything illegal.”

Harkins said students can’t drink during school time, but said it is a good sign that the university recognizes students as adults for signing a consent waiver and nothing more.

During the last half of the course, Hollyfield and Harkins will join the students at locations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. 

“Over the past few years or so, moonshining has become this thing that is now a symbol of pride,” Hollyfield said. “It’s still very illegal, but Tennessee and North Carolina and Kentucky are really sort of making it a point to promote that as an element of tourism.”