Historian to give second lecture on William Alexander Percy

  • on 8 Nov 2013
  • duPont Library, Torian Room

Historian Benjamin E. Wise of the University of Florida will deliver two lectures at Sewanee on poet and memoirist William Alexander Percy on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.

His second lecture, entitled “‘It Somehow Had Meaning’: William Alexander Percy and World War One,” will be Friday, Nov. 8, at 2 p.m. in the Torian Room of the duPont Library. In 1917 Percy went from being a poet and a lawyer in the Mississippi Delta to being an officer in the American Army in France. Wise will discuss the meaning and significance of the Great War to Percy and other southerners of his generation.

Percy (1885-1942) was a Sewanee and Harvard-educated lawyer, planter and poet from Greenville, Miss. He is best known for Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son. Published in 1941, it includes a lyrical chapter on his undergraduate years at Sewanee, which he called Arcadia, a place “so beautiful that people who have once been there always, one way or another, come back.”

Wise is author of the acclaimed biography, William Alexander Percy: The Curious Life of a Mississippi Planter and Sexual Freethinker, published in 2012. The Virginia Quarterly Review hailed it as “truly a groundbreaking biography,” and the Journal of American History called it a “major contribution to southern history and the history of gender and sexuality.”

At the University of Florida, Wise is a historian of modern America, and specializes in southern history, gender and sexuality, and cultural history. His articles have appeared in Southern Cultures, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, The William Mitchell Law Review, and in the edited volume, Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction. Wise received his Ph.D. from Rice University and his B.A. from Auburn University. In 2009 he received the C. Vann Woodward Prize for the best dissertation in the field of southern history.

On Thursday, Nov. 7, Wise will speak on “Trespassing, Sex, Confessions, Secrets, and Ghosts: William Alexander Percy’s South.” 

The two lectures are sponsored by Associated Colleges of the South Faculty Advancement Program, the University Lectures Committee, the Jessie Ball duPont Library, the American Studies Program, and the Department of History.