Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media
Intro
  Lesson 2  Lesson 3  Lesson 4  Activities

Lesson 1

Hillbilly or Appalachian: Is There A Difference?

Objectives:

Notes to the Teacher:

This lesson can be completed in one day; however, extending the time allows students to complete independent study. 

One focus of this lesson (and of the unit) is to help students determine what does and what does not constitute Appalachian humor. However, this is a very sensitive issue for many students, particularly Appalachian students. Students will have a variety of responses to all questions in this unit, some very emotional. Care should be taken to accept the student’s point of view as valid.

The following essays are excellent resources for teacher and students.

Ballard, Sandra L.  "Where Did Hillbillies Come From?  Tracing Sources of the Comic Hillbilly Fool in Literature."  Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes.  Ed. Dwight B. Billings, Gurney Norman, and Katherine Ledford.  KY:  Kentucky UP, 1999.  138-149.

Feathers, Tony. "Cartoons." Appalachia Inside Out: Culture and Custom. Vol. 2. Eds. Robert J. Higgs, Ambrose Manning, and Jim Wayne Miller. Knoxville: Tennessee UP, 1995. 596-600.

Jones, Loyal. "Appalachian Humor." Appalachia Inside Out: Culture and Custom. Vol. 2. Eds. Robert J. Higgs, Ambrose Manning, and Jim Wayne Miller. Knoxville: Tennessee UP, 1995. 613-619.

Newcomb, Horace.  "Appalachia on Television:  Region as Symbol in American Popular Culture (1880)."  Appalachian Images in Folk and Popular Culture.  2nd ed. Ed. W. K. McNeil.  Knoxville, Tennessee UP, 1995. 315-329.  

Shelby, Anne.  "The 'R' Word:  What's So Funny (and Not So Funny) about Redneck Jokes." Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes. Ed. Dwight B. Billings, Gurney Norman, and Katherine Ledford.  KY: Kentucky UP, 1999.  153-160.

Thompson, Jerry. "Hillbilly Humor." Now &Then 14.1 (Spring 1994): 12-13.

Woodside, Jane Harris. "Twisted Humor: The Cartoons of Anthony Feathers." Now &Then 14.1 (Spring 1994): 27-30.

Procedures:

1. Prepare the board ahead of time with the following headings: Jokes/Source/Reactions; Why?; Outsider/ Insider; Qualities of Appalachian Humor. All information should remain on the board until the end of the lesson.

2. Write the terms Appalachia and Hillbilly on the board. Allow students 5 minutes to freewrite about these terms in their journals.

3. After students have completed their journal entry, conduct an open discussion based on their responses. Encourage students to reveal their sources.

4. Provide students with the following definition.

5. Encourage students to respond to this definition. Ask students to explain why they agree or disagree with the definition.

6. Provide the following definitions of Appalachia:

7. Conduct an open discussion based on the three definitions of Appalachia. Ask students to reflect on reasons for the variety of definitions.

Suggested response:

8. Provide students with the following definition:

9. Encourage students to respond to this definition. Ask students to explain why they agree or disagree with the definition.

10. Encourage students to share any jokes about Appalachians (or hillbillies) that they are familiar with. Ask students to reveal the source of the joke. Notice which jokes are met with laughter and which are not. Enlist the aid of a willing student to write short titles, or first lines, of the jokes on the board, indicating student reactions.

11. Allow for open discussion regarding student responses to jokes. Why did students respond favorably to some and not others?

Suggested responses:

12. Ask students the following questions and allow time for open discussion. Solicit another student volunteer to write student responses on the board as they are discussed.

    Why do different races, religions, or regions tell jokes about themselves?

Suggested responses:

    Is there a difference between an outsider telling a joke about a particular race, religion, or region and an insider doing the same?

Suggested responses:

13. Ask students if they can identify positive qualities of Appalachian humor?

Suggested responses:

14. Gather cartoons and jokes from magazines, journals, and the Internet.  Provide these in a format that students can access. The following Internet source may be helpful.  (A search using the terms hillbilly and joke in http://www.google.com or another search engine will provide additional sites.) 

My West Virginia Mountain-Redneck and Hillbilly Jokes (search for joke or redneck joke at this site)

Suggested responses:

15. In small groups, ask students to provide examples for each quality of Appalachian humor. Students can use information from the board as well as samples from Appalachian Humor books (Loyal Jones and Billy Edd Wheeler’s Laughter in Appalachia and More Laughter in Appalachia) and cartoons provided by the teacher (check Now and Then published by Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, ETSU, Box 70556, Johnson City, TN 37614-0556, which has cartoons in almost every issue). Advise students that they should endeavor to be creative in the presentation of their material.

This assignment can be extended in order for students to conduct research outside of class.

NOTE TO TEACHER:  If you're interested in adding the humor of songs, tall tales, and anecdotes, you may want to check out West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature


Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media: Intro
Complete list of AppLit pages on Folklore

This Page Created:  11/08/2001
Last Update: 7/13/05


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