HIGH POINT, N.C., March 17, 2009 – Dr. Ed Piacentino, professor of English at High Point University, recently presented a paper at the 20th Southern Writers Symposium – a biennial conference focusing on the literature of the American South – at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C.
His paper, titled “Ham Jones, North Carolina Backwoods Humorist,” discusses Jones, a Salisbury and Rowan County native. Jones was also a graduate of the University of North Carolina, a lawyer, editor of the Salisbury “Carolina Watchman” (a Whig newspaper), a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, solicitor for the sixth judicial district and reporter for the North Carolina Supreme Court.
“My paper was intended to introduce a little-known North Carolina humorist who wrote backwoods comic sketches that were probably based on incidents and characters that Jones, a lawyer, likely observed in his travels on the legal circuit in western North Carolina,” Piacentino explains.
Piacentino says Jones has some importance in the genre of the humor of the Old South because he was one of the first amateur newspaper writers in the South to employ the narrative frame – the voice of an articulate narrator and the vernacular of plain folk – and to treat his backwoods characters without judgment or condescension, giving them a liberal voice and space in his work.
“In his interactions with and descriptions of these kinds of characters, one senses Jones’s appreciation, perhaps even admiration, and certainly toleration of their antics, lifestyles and even cultural transgressions,” Piacentino says. “Moreover, Jones typically delights in celebrating unrestrained and sometimes aberrant behavior of his characters – drunken witnesses, rascally woodcutters, innocent fools, pranksters, fun-loving and violent mountaineers, and angry and assertive women.”
At High Point University, every student receives an extraordinary education in a fun environment with caring people. HPU, located in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, is a liberal arts institution with more than 3,400 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 50 countries and more than 40 states at campuses in High Point and Winston-Salem. It is ranked by US News and World Report No. 5 among comprehensive universities in the South and No. 1 in its category among up-and-coming schools. Forbes.com ranks HPU in the top 6 percent among “America’s Best Colleges.” The university offers 66 undergraduate majors, 40 undergraduate minors and seven graduate-degree majors. It is accredited by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and is a member of the NCAA, Division I and the Big South Conference. Visit High Point University on the Web at .
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