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Eighth Annual Humanities Symposium Tackles Theme of ‘Nature and the Human Spirit’

Featured lecturers to include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver
hum_sym09.jpgBelmont University announced today the theme and program schedule for its Eighth Annual Humanities Symposium, which this year will feature talks by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver. Centered on the concept “Nature and the Human Spirit,” this year’s Humanities Symposium occurs Sept. 13-21 and parallels the overall university 2009-10 academic concentration on “A Paradise Lost? Environment, Ecology and Sustainability.”
The Humanities Symposium seeks to fulfill the classical definition of what a symposium should be: a gathering of friends for the purpose of intellectually stimulating conversation on a matter important to humanity, time and place. More than 25 academic lectures and special events will be held during this year’s eight-day symposium, including Oliver’s appearances, student readings, nature walks, art exhibits and the viewing and discussion of Sean Penn-directed film Into the Wild.
Dr. Annette Sisson, professor in Belmont’s English department and an organizer of this year’s event, said, “This year’s topic is very timely and highly relevant as it addresses the environment, ecology and sustainability, which raises the question of how humanity and nature relate to one another. But it also encourages us to explore how human beings can live more fully and richly when they have a keen awareness of their own place within the natural order of things… Mary Oliver has devoted her entire career to writing poetry and essays about this very topic, so her contribution to this year’s symposium will be a tremendous highlight of the program. However, once other writers and scholars learned that she would be participating, they were eager to sign on—so our symposium this year has more range, depth and texture than ever before.”
maryoliver.jpgPulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver, the celebrated author of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, will conduct a reading open to the public on Thurs., Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Belmont Heights Baptist Church. With her lyrical connection to the natural world, Oliver’s poetry has firmly established her in the highest realm of American poets. In addition to her 1984 Pulitzer, she has been honored with the National Book Award for Poetry and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, among others. She is renowned for her evocative and precise imagery, which brings nature into clear focus, transforming the everyday world into a place of magic and discovery. As poet Stanley Kunitz writes, “Mary Oliver’s poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations.”


Other featured speakers include Deborah Janson, an associate professor of German in West Virginia University’s Department of Foreign Languages who has published articles on works from the German Enlightenment and Romantic periods and on German literature from an eco-feminist perspective;author John Tallmadge, who has dedicated his career to writing and teaching about the environment, pedagogy and sustainability; and writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray, who authored New York Times Notable Book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (2000), a memoir about growing up in a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast.
In addition, Belmont alumna and Nashville-based Americana singer/songwriter Adrienne Young will offer a folk music concert and a demonstration of NIA Dance, a cardiovascular blend of dance arts, martial arts and the healing arts.
An abbreviated schedule can be found below. For a complete listing of this year’s events along with full descriptions, locations and speaker biographies, visit the online program at www.belmont.edu/english/humanities_symposium.
Sunday, September 13
6:30 p.m. Student Reading of Selected Poetry & Prose on Nature & the Human Spirit
Monday, September 14
10 a.m. Reverdie: The Eternal Rebirth of the Human Spirit in Nature
12 p.m. Deep Into the Thicket…: Nature Writing, Holy Writing
2 p.m. Bringing Nature to the Classroom, Bringing the Classroom to Nature
4 p.m. The Preservation of Nature: The Book Arts and the Natural World
Tuesday, September 15
11 a.m. Landscape and National Identities
2 p.m. Nature as Conscience and Consciousness: The Pastoral Hero and the Sympathetic Imagination
5:30 p.m. Finding Common Ground: An Eco-feminist Reading of Christa Wolf’s Work
7:30 p.m. Folk Music Concert with Adrienne Young, Alumna
Wednesday, September 16
Art Exhibit Opening: Snake handlers and Redemption (On exhibit through September 24)
11 a.m. NIA DANCE: Creative Flow through Conscious Movement
3 p.m. Seeds: A Story of Self-Cultivation
4:30 p.m. Invisible Landscapes: Learning from Nature in the City
7 p.m. Religion, Politics and Public Good: A Buddhist Perspective
Thursday, September 17
11 a.m. Wildness at Heart – The Predator/Prey Relationship: What Humans Can Learn From Horses About Being Whole
3:30 p.m. Campus Nature Walk: “Learning to See the Unseen”
5 p.m. Nature, Community and the Life We Dream
6 p.m. Reception with the Symposium Speakers
7 p.m. A Reading by Poet Mary Oliver
Friday, September 18
8:30 a.m. What a Tangled Web We Weave
10 a.m. Nature and the Human Spirit Symposium Panel with Featured Speakers Mary Oliver, Janisse Ray, John Tallmadge and Guest Publisher, Helene Atwan
1 p.m. As China Goes, So Goes the Planet: The Transboundary Implications of Chinese Environmental Challenges
7:30 p.m. Documentary Films: Manufactured Landscapes and Shifting Nature
Saturday, September 19
8 a.m. Hike at Radnor Lake with Candice Ethridge, Native Plant Enthusiast, and Kevin Bowden, “Bird Walk” Leader for Tennessee Ornithological Society
9:30 a.m. Rethinking the Environment, Politics, Development and Culture Nexus
1:15 p.m. Environments, Diversity and Equity: A Buddhist Perspective
Sunday, September 20
2:30 p.m. Film Viewing and Discussion: Into the Wild
Monday, September 21
10 a.m. Nature and the Human Spirit—Reciprocity and Relationship: A Wrap-Up Session