The Death of the Cockfighters: A BBC Documentary Featuring Prof. Carlos Dews

Carlos Dews, Professor of English and Director of the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation at John Cabot University, recently discussed cockfighting in a BBC World Service documentary.

Professor Carlos Dews

Professor Carlos Dews

From the BBC World Service website:

Carlos Dews was brought up in a poor area of rural East Texas, travelling every weekend to cockfighting tournaments across the southern states. “I remember,” he says, “limp necks and the lifeless swaying heads of beautiful birds as they were carried by their feet to barrels for burning. I was told not to cry, not to remember these things. But we always remember what we’re told to forget.”

Carlos’ father was in his day a great champion, twice winning the title ‘Cocker of Texas’. While the sport is now banned in the US, and Carlos himself shares the aversion felt by many to the sport and is a vegetarian, he also feels a powerful sense of nostalgia regarding its loss since it played such an important part in his childhood, shaping his identity as a youth growing up against a set of powerful masculine codes he was largely at odds with.

Visiting a cockfight in Puerto Rico before heading home to Texas, Carlos argues that cockfighting is, a highly complex cultural practice for which he has a great deal of regard that leant meaning to lives often disregarded by mainstream America. Nonetheless Carlos will describe how the sport represents the last vestiges of a necessarily outmoded and dying culture whose values are so out of step with modern Western society, hearing from the Humane Society along the way.

A leading expert on the life and work of the American novelist Carson McCullers,  Professor Dews is one of the organizers of the international conference Carson McCullers in the World,  which will be held at JCU from July 14 through 16, 2017. He is the editor of the recently published Collected Works of Carson McCullers (Library of America 2017), the editor of the volume, Carson McCullers: Complete Novels (Library of America 2001), as well as Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers (1999) He is a published author and editor in both fiction, as one half of “Sam Cabot” together with mystery writer S.J. Rozan, and non-fiction.

Listen to “The Death of the Cockfighters”