Dr. Hagood: An Intellectual Southern Gentleman
An Intellectual Gentleman of the South
Throomers extends a warm welcome to Professor Taylor Hagood as a most noteworthy contributing writer. His depth of knowledge across American literature is impressive, especially as relates to his birthplace, the United States South. He’ll be providing our readers with extraordinary content from time-to-time on any number of subjects as his busy schedule allows.
Initially, we’ll be proudly presenting his popular ‘Hagood Reads the Phone Book’ series, beginning with fascinating tales from Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is a city filled with colorful history, from the era of steamboats to the birth of the blues and rockabilly music. The focus will be on household names connected with the city – Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Martin Luther King, and many others – as well as lesser known but historically significant names.
In the months ahead, Professor Hagood will provide entertaining visits to the historic cities of New Orleans, Key West, and wherever else his phone book happens to be propped open to at the time. Beyond these travelogues, we’re hoping he’ll grace us with essays in other areas of expertise. Let’s take a look at just what these are:
The Professor’s Scholarship
Taylor Hagood earned his A.A.(’96), B.A.(’98), and M.A.(’00), all in English, from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University. He then went on to achieve his Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi in 2005, where he became an internationally-acclaimed expert on the writings of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner.
In 2009-10, he served as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Munich, before making South Florida his home base. He currently holds the position of Professor of American Literature at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where his areas of focus include African American literature, and the literature and culture of the United States South. He is also an award-winning author and lecturer who connects with both academic and general audiences alike.
His most celebrated of six books is Faulkner, Writer of Disability, which won the C. Hugh Holman Award for Best Book in Southern Studies. One reviewer wrote, ‘not only does the book break ground in its content, its style disrupts conventions of academic writing, playing within such genres as screenwriting, biography, and even email in order to challenge conventions of normality and thus embody the very principles of disability studies.’
His book, Secrecy, Magic, and the One-Act Plays of Harlem Renaissance Women Writers, explores the long-forgotten one-act plays of Zora Neale Hurston, May Miller, Marita Bonner, and other African American women during the Harlem Renaissance
In a January 2016 interview with Osher LLI (FAU) student, Sandi Page, Hagood said, “I first got interested in the movement through its music—Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and others. In a high school English class, my teacher read Langston Hughes’s poem “The Weary Blues,” which embodied that music. Then I read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and thought it one of the most beautiful novels ever written. When I encountered the one-act plays of women writers as a graduate student, I was hooked.”Additionally, Hagood coedited Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond in Southern Literature and Culture, which collects essays by scholars who examine “undeadness” in the South, not just in the form of vampires and zombies (of which there are plenty), but also as a trope for the Confederacy, for the condition of African Americans during Jim Crow, and for a contemporary post-southern landscape in which the idea of a “natural” South has been replaced by images and items of less genuine “southernness.”
Hagood’s essay in the book examines the HBO series True Blood and the novels of Charlaine Harris and the corresponding AMC The Walking Dead, along with the Dark Horse comic The Goon. The book has been reviewed well and often, including outside of academic circles. One critic said, “Being self-aware and meta without being campy or politically irrelevant is very hard to pull off, but the editors of this volume do it, and even make it look easy.”
In addition to these book-length works, he has written articles on many other writers and literary movements and even on popular culture, including karate, comics, and football.
As a lecturer, Hagood’s goal is to create an experience that will be interesting and informative and make people both think and feel. He has spoken in venues around the world on subjects as wide-ranging as: literature, travel, music, art, and culture. He has lectured on such writers as Anton Chekhov, Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Shakespeare, as well as jazz legends, country singers, and the cultures of the United States, especially southern culture.
The Professor’s Roots
In the referenced Osher LLI interview, Hagood discussed his early influences. “My father taught me to read when I was very young, probably three or four years old. He also worked to build my vocabulary. I especially remember learning the word ‘metamorphosis.’ I read the kinds of books most elementary school children read, but also was interested in others. I tackled Dickens’s David Copperfield in second grade. As a child, I was probably most influenced by Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.”
As to his all-time favorite book, he said, “It’s impossible to pick one book either now or any time in my life. One of my very favorites as an adult is Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. On any given day, I would also include Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the stories of Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty’s The Robber Bridegroom, Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, part 1, and the poetry of John Keats and James Wright. I’ve also enjoyed the mystery novels of Donna Leon, and the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova.
The Final Chapter
Speaking to Professor Hagood’s unrivaled diversity of interests, he told Osher LLI’s Sandi Page the following:
- He is relatively fluent in German and can engage in basic conversation in several other European languages. “If I had all the time in the world,” he said, “I would try to learn as many languages as possible, starting, probably, with Icelandic, since I love Icelandic sagas and would love to be able to read them in the original.”
- He is rather adept with the piano and accompanying voice. On a rare occasion he’s been known to add musical color to one of his lectures,as he did in speaking to the life and performing the artistry of Jimmie Rodgers, an early blues and country singer from Meridian, Mississippi.
- An unrequited passion that you’re unlikely to hear anyplace else is harboring an ambition to raise goats, and produce and market goat cheese. As goats thrive in cooler, mountainous terrain, and there are no absentee goat farmers to our knowledge, he’s chosen an incompatible climate, at least for now. Because we so enjoy his classes, we hope this is one he learns to live without.
- As to his dream dinner line-up, take a mouthful of this. He would serve his mother’s classic southern recipe of fried turkey (or ‘tofurkey’ for the vegetarians) to the following ‘living’ guests: Sophia Loren, Peyton Manning, Diane Lane, Robert Duvall, and Queen Elizabeth I. As to his ‘past’ list, Rita Hayworth would be at the top, followed by Claudia Cardinale, Cary Grant, Shaka Zulu, and the above-mentioned Jimmie Rodgers. Unfortunately for Marcel Proust, he was uninvited at the last moment for fear he’d bring everyone down. He was known as a rather morbid guy. Perhaps Hagood’s true concern though was Proust would require his dinner served over seven long courses? I mean really, who has the time?
Truth be told, I have no plans of engaging in extended discussions with Professor Hagood on many topics. In the professor’s literary stratosphere, I could fake it for a few minutes until my relatively barren classics bookshelf would be innocently exposed. I’d hold my own in sports and some genres of music, and maybe True Blood and comic books (other than The Goon). I was more of an Archie, Dennis the Menace and Peanuts guy.
However, therein lies my opportunity, and perhaps yours. I’ll be planning to capture every last sentence of Professor Hagood’s fertile contributions and I recommend the same for you. I have so much to learn, and wide-open eyes, ears and mind for use as my instruments. Besides, I’ve heard he doesn’t assign homework and is a generous grader.
Once again, Professor Taylor Hagood, welcome aboard Throomers.com. It is our distinct honor.