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Mountaineers Are Always Free

Heritage, Dissent, and a West Virginia Icon

Rosemary V. Hathaway (author)

ISBN: 9781949199307

Publication Date: May 2020

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

The West Virginia University Mountaineer is not just a mascot: it is a symbol of West Virginia history and identity embraced throughout the state. In this deeply informed but accessible study, folklorist Rosemary Hathaway explores the figure's early history as a backwoods trickster, its deployment in emerging mass media, and finally its long and sometimes conflicted career as the symbol of West Virginia University.
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  • Table of Contents
  • Author Biography
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The West Virginia University Mountaineer is not just a mascot: it is a symbol of West Virginia history and identity embraced throughout the state. In this deeply informed but accessible study, folklorist Rosemary Hathaway explores the figure's early history as a backwoods trickster, its deployment in emerging mass media, and finally its long and sometimes conflicted career - beginning officially in 1937 - as the symbol of West Virginia University.

Alternately a rabble-rouser and a romantic embodiment of the state's history, the Mountaineer has been subject to ongoing reinterpretation while consistently conveying the value of independence. Hathaway's account draws on multiple sources, including archival research, personal history, and interviews with former students who have portrayed the mascot, to explore the complex forces and tensions animating the Mountaineer figure. Often serving as a focus for white, masculinist, and Appalachian identities in particular, the Mountaineer that emerges from this study is something distinct from the hillbilly. Frontiersman and rebel both, the Mountaineer figure traditionally and energetically resists attempts (even those by the University) to tame or contain it.
Illustrations 43 black & white images
Pages 276
Dimensions 216 x 140
Date Published 30 May 2020
Publisher West Virginia University Press
Subject/s Regional & national history   Folklore, myths & legends   Social & cultural anthropology   Active outdoor pursuits   Local interest, family history & nostalgia   Sociology: customs & traditions  
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Origins of the Mountaineer
  • 2. From Slouch Hat to Coonskin Cap: The Hillbilly Mountaineer versus the Frontiersman
  • 3. The Rifle and the Beard: The WVU Mountaineer in the 1960s
  • 4. Policing the Student Body: "Mountain Dears" and (Sexy) Girls with Guns
  • 5. Inclusion, Exclusion, and the Twenty-First-Century Mountaineer
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index
Rosemary V. Hathaway is an associate professor of English at West Virginia University, where she teaches folklore, American literature, and young adult literature.

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