ESO Executive Council


ESO President
Kelly Vines

Mentorship Chair
Heather Fox

General Council
Jennie Lightweis-Goff

General Council
Jill Fennell

MA Representative
William Palmer

Past-President Adviser
Stephanie Rountree

Kelly Vines served as the MA Representative on the inaugural ESO executive council and now serves as the organization’s President. She is also a PhD Candidate and Assistant Director of the University Writing Program at Louisiana State University. As the President of the ESO, she is dedicated to facilitating communication and collaboration between southern studies scholars across our disparate geographies, making the SSSL and southern studies a more welcoming place for emerging scholars, and advocating on behalf of emerging scholars in political realms. She is currently working on her dissertation which questions how, why, and to what effect contemporary authors, artists, and tourists move through or re-inhabit plantations in symbolic and material ways. Her work has been published in the North Carolina Literary Review and Mississippi Quarterly. In addition to her more scholarly work, she also co-produces About South, a podcast about the South:


Jennie Lightweis-Goff is an Instructor of English at the University of Mississippi; she serves as Projects Chair of the ESO Executive Council. The book based on her dissertation, Blood at the Root: Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus, won the SUNY Press Dissertation / First Book Prize in African-American Studies. Since then, her research has pivoted to the urban south. She is presently at work on several projects that place coastal southern cities at the center of U.S. urban studies. She ran for Executive Council with hopes of turning ESO into a political actor on behalf of contingent workers, in resistance to a profession that seems everywhere committed to melancholic “autocannibalism.”


Heather Fox teaches women’s literature and writing courses at the University of South Florida, and she serves as the Mentorship Chair on the ESO executive council. A 2015-2016 Frances S. Summersell Fellow and a 2014 Phi Kappa Phi Award recipient, her work regularly engages interdisciplinary approaches to research and teaching, with particular interests in women’s literature, the literature of the American South, and archive studies. In Fall 2018, she will be joining the Department of English and Theatre at Eastern Kentucky University.


Jill Fennell serves as the Networking and Professionalization Chair on the ESO executive council. She is a PhD Student at the University of Tennessee. She has a MA from Texas Tech University and a BA from Southern Arkansas University. Jill focuses on American and southern studies with an emphasis on twentieth-century literature. She specializes in affect theory and ethical theory. Her dissertation project, “Against Melancholic Pleasure: Care and Affect in Twentieth-Century Southern Literature,” studies how feelings and commitments compete, and the way in which structures of feeling affect this competition. Much of Jill’s work investigates how structures of feeling can create stuck affective states, which, she argues can inhibit human flourishing. Jill is an Oscar Roy Ashley fellow at UT.


William C. Palmer is a PhD Student at the University of Mississippi and serves as the MA Representative on the ESO executive council. He came to southern studies not through a professional curiosity about the region but by the biographical accident of never having lived anywhere else. Due to this resident experience, he tries to base his study in the real people and artifacts of the region to inform his understandings of cultural. Will’s research applies a materialist methodology to American modernism to analyze how sound informs expressive understandings of race and the environment in the early twentieth century. He has presented and lectured across the country on bluegrass, hip-hop, protest music, film, and literature. The Routledge History of the American South features his chapter co-written with Erich Nunn on the cultural history of southern music. He has ongoing projects on James Agee, William Faulkner, and Claude McKay.


Stephanie Rountree co-founded the Emerging Scholars Organization in 2014 and served as its inaugural President (2014-2016), leading the Executive Council in establishing is operations and in publishing the ESO’s first co-authored scholarship, Blast South: A Manifesto of Southern Vorticism (roundtable published in Mississippi Quarterly). She currently serves in the advisory Past President role to the ESO Executive Council. Dr. Rountree is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Auburn University where she is currently at work on a book project investigating capitalist technologies of U.S. public health in post-Emancipation literature. Her scholarship appears in such publications as south: a scholarly journal, Word and Text, Ethos, and Carson McCullers in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Together with Lisa Hinrichsen and Gina Caison, she is co-editor of the first edited collection on the U.S. South and television, entitled Small-Screen Souths: Region, Identity, and the Cultural Politics of Television (LSU Press, 2017).


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