Dr. Lesley J. Gordon is the new Charles G. Summersell Chair of Southern History at The University of Alabama, filling the position once held by Dr. George C. Rable, who retired at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
Dr. Gordon is from Connecticut, originally, but has spent thirteen years in the South; she attended the College of William and Mary for her undergraduate degree and the University of Georgia for her Ph.D.; her first teaching position was at Murray State University in Murray, KY. She’s happy to return to an SEC school, adding that “Georgia probably can’t compete with Alabama, right now.” Most recently, she was a professor at the University of Akron for nearly twenty years. Though she worked in Ohio, she lived outside of Pittsburgh, a commute that was “100 miles each way!” She’s very glad to be closer to her work now that she lives in Tuscaloosa.
Dr. Gordon’s research interests center on the Antebellum South and Civil War Era, particularly the motivations of common soldiers and the effect that combat had upon them and their families. Her current book project focuses on the North and South’s understanding of cowardice in battle. She’s been studying a Texas regiment accused of cowardly behavior at Shiloh, which brings up interesting questions because of the South’s strong conceptions of honor during the period. The cowardice accusations were “devastating for this regiment,” Dr. Gordon says. “They seemed unable to shake that shameful charge, no matter how well they performed in subsequent battles.” Historians haven’t done much on this topic, and Dr. Gordon hopes to bring a new voice to the discussion, introducing elements of the “anti-hero” into the narrative of the war.
This semester, Dr. Gordon is teaching a graduate seminar in southern history, but she looks forward to teaching undergraduate classes in the future. She especially enjoys teaching the American Civilization survey, because she can introduce freshmen and sophomores from varying backgrounds to the broad sweep of American history. Dr. Gordon wants to continue to attract history graduate students to the University, and highlight the department’s unique Alabama-Cuba initiative. A bit of a workaholic, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, whom she says help her stay balanced. Dr. Gordon is also a “news junkie,” likes reading “actual newspapers,” and listening to podcasts to catch up on current events.
The department is delighted to have Dr. Gordon and we hope she enjoys this latest chapter in her academic life. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be here,” she says. “This is a wonderful time to be at The University of Alabama.”