Leigh H. Edwards

WMS 439
20th and 21st century U.S. literature and popular culture, media studies, American studies, cultural studies, 19th century U.S. literature and culture

LEIGH H. EDWARDS, Professor, Ph.D. in English University of Pennsylvania (1999), M.A. in English University of Pennsylvania (1993), B.A. Duke University (1992). Dr. Edwards specializes in American literature and popular culture from the nineteenth century to the present, with particular emphasis on contemporary popular music, television, and new media. Her research in media studies and American studies focuses especially on how gender and race have been represented in popular music and on television. She also studies recent innovations in transmedia storytelling (coordinated narratives told across multiple media platforms, such as via television, popular music, film, and new media), and changing ideas of authenticity and truth claims in the digital era.

She is the author of the book Dolly Parton, Gender, and Country Music (Indiana University Press, 2018), where she analyzes the evolution of Parton's media image, detailing how Parton's use of camp is transgressive and questions gender stereotypes in popular music and American culture. Her book The Triumph of Reality TV: The Revolution in American Television (Praeger, 2013) analyzes how reality television has pioneered key trends in new media and how it markets themes of social conflict, most notably expanding ideals of "the American family." She is also the author of Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (Indiana University Press, 2009), which examines how Cash's work and image, particularly his themes of contradiction, illuminate key foundational tensions in the history of American thought.

Currently, she is completing work on Prince and his media image; projections of authenticity on reality TV; and historical contexts for the depictions of multiracialism and multiculturalism in current popular culture.

Her editorial board memberships include the Journal of Popular Television, The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Pop Culture Universe, and the advisory board for Invisible Culture. She was invited to serve on the Advisory Board of The University of Tulsa Institute for Bob Dylan Studies (2018-), and to be the Volume Advisor for the Contemporary Literary Criticism entry on Johnny Cash (Gale, 2017).

Her teaching interests include: American literature and popular culture in a global frame from the nineteenth century to the present; media studies, particularly television studies and popular music studies; American studies; cultural studies; Women's Studies; and cultural theory, including critical theories of gender and race.


  • Dolly Parton, Gender, and Country Music (Indiana University Press, 2018).
    • Winner, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award (2017), Gold Medal
  • The Triumph of Reality TV: The Revolution in American Television (Praeger, 2013).
  • Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (Indiana University Press, 2009).
    • Reviewed in Journal of Popular Music Studies, Journal of American Studies, Southern Cultures, The Journal of American Culture, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Choice, History Compass, Yahoo Associated Content
    • Finalist, Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award (2009)
    • Nominee, International Country Music Conference, Belmont Book of the Year Award (2009)


  • "Country Music and Class: 'Workin' 9 to 5'." The Oxford Handbook of Country Music, ed. Travis D. Stimeling (Oxford University Press, 2017), 307-326.
  • "Big Smo: Reality TV, Hick Hop, and Southern Stereotypes." Small Screen Souths: Interrogating the Televisual Archive, ed. Lisa Hinrichsen, Gina Caison, Stephanie Rountree (Louisiana State University Press, 2017), 184-199.
  • "Country Music and Religion." The Bloomsbury Companion to Religion and Popular Music, ed. Christopher Partridge and Marcus Moberg (Bloomsbury, 2017), 269-277.
  • "'Backwoods Barbie': Dolly Parton's Gender Performance." A Boy Named Sue, Too: New Essays in Gender and Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold and Kristine McCusker (University Press of Mississippi, 2016).
  • "Johnny Cash's 'Ain't No Grave' and Digital Folk Culture." Journal of Popular Music Studies 28.2 (June 2016): 186-203.
  • "Contemporary Television Advertising: From Disney to the Kardashians." We Are What We Sell: How Advertising Shapes American Life, ed. Danielle Coombs and Bob Batchelor (Praeger, 2013).
  • "Transmedia Storytelling, Corporate Synergy, and Audience Expression." Global Media Journal 12.20 (Spring 2012).
  • "Reality TV and the New American Family." Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream, ed. Bob Batchelor (Praeger, 2012).
  • "Spectacle: Creating Sports Icons in a Media-Saturated World." American History through American Sports, ed. Danielle Coombs and Bob Batchelor (Praeger, 2012).
  • "Reality TV and the American Family," in The Tube Has Spoken: Reality TV as Film and History, ed. Julie Taddeo and Ken Dvorak, (University Press of Kentucky, 2009).
  • "Twitter: Democratizing the Media Versus Corporate Branding." FLOW: A Critical Forum for Television and Media Culture 9.14 (Special Issue: Social Media, May 2009).
  • "The Endless End of Frontier Mythology: PBS's Frontier House," Film & History 37.1, 2007.
  • "Dangerous Minds: The Woman Professor on Television," in Geek Chic: Smart Women in Popular Culture, ed. Sherrie A. Inness, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
  • "Chasing the Real: Reality Television and Documentary Forms," in Docufictions: Essays on the Intersection of Documentary and Fictional Filmmaking, ed. John Parris Springer and Gary Rhodes, (McFarland, 2006).
  • "Walkin' Contradiction: Johnny Cash and American Ambivalence," in Literary Cash: Fiction and Non-Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, ed. Bob Batchelor, (BenBella Books, 2006).
  • "Taste and Television," FLOW: A Critical Forum for Television and Media Culture, Special Conference Issue, November 2006.
  • "'What a Girl Wants': Gender Norming on Reality Game Shows," Feminist Media Studies 4.2, Summer 2004.
  • "The United Colors of Pocahontas: Synthetic Miscegenation and Disney's Multiculturalism," Narrative 7.2, May 1999.


  • "Hybridity and Miscegenation." The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, ed. Nancy Naples (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016).
  • Database essays for Pop Culture Universe as an Editorial Board Member, including: "MTV Pioneers the Youth Reality TV Programming Market (2014); "The Problem of the 'Indian Princess': Pocahontas and Disney's Multiculturalism" (2014); "Mass Art: Digital Folk Culture and Country Music as Folk Mass Culture" (2013); "Social Networking Websites and New Knowledge Models" (2012); "Pop Culture Values in the Digital Era: From Facebook to the Return of An American Family" (2011); "New Media Identities: Community and Leisure in the Digital Era," Daily Life through History (2011); "Active Audiences and Popular Culture: What Would Johnny Cash Do?" (2010).
  • "Johnny Cash." The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd. edition, ed. Charles Hiroshi Garrett (Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • "Mathematics and Television," co-authored with mathematician Christopher Goff. Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society, edited by S. Greenwald and J. Thomley, Salem Press, 2011.
  • "Olga Broumas," "Aurora Levins Morales," "Milcha S├ínchez-Scott," "May Swenson," in The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States, ed. Cathy N. Davidson and Linda Wagner Martin, (Oxford University Press, 1995).


  • Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award (2017), Gold Medal for Dolly Parton, Gender, and Country Music.
  • University Teaching Award, Florida State University, 2014-2015, 2009-2010, 2003-2004.
  • National Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 1992-1997.

Publications By This Author