Belmont University Announces 2021 Humanities Symposium Lineup

reading as a radical act

Belmont University announced the event lineup for the 2021 Annual Humanities Symposium which is set for September 27 – October 4. The 20th anniversary of the symposium will center around the theme “Reading as a Radical Act.”

Radical acts result in change or controversy of some sort. Throughout time, reading became used as a form of “connectedness” and a way to communicate ideas. Having the ability to read results in having the ability to make change. The symposium will investigate some of the many ways reading leads to change-making in ourselves and in the world. 

During the week-long event, speakers will discuss topics varying from the importance of reading in democracy to cultural diversity within literature. Featured speakers include President Dr. Jones, Belmont alumnus and editor of the Nashville Journal Steve Cavendish and founder of The Black Book Project Meredith McKinney.

All events will be held in-person in the Janet Ayers Academic Center (JAAC) 4094 or participants can watch the discussions online at A sample of the event schedule can be found below, for the full schedule please visit the Belmont Humanities Symposium page.


10 a.m. —“Take and Read:” Cultivating Imagination through Traditioned Innovation President Dr. Greg Jones

Dr. Jones will explore why and how the radical act of reading cultivates a lively sense of the past that enables creative opportunities for the future and stirs our imagination in the present

4 p.m. — “The Roar on the Other Side of Silence:” Reading the Invisible Life Beyond the Page with Dr. Annette Sisson

Using examples from literature and pop culture, English Professor Dr. Annette Sisson will discuss how the process of writing and reading makes what’s invisible visible


10 a.m.– Reading Sign: A Brief History of Sign Language and Its Use Today with Adam Riekstins and Members of Belmont’s American Sign Language Organization

This presentation by members of one of Belmont’s newest student organizations will offer a brief overview of the history of sign language in different cultures and what sign language looks like in America today

1 p.m. — Shakespeare is From Nashville with Dr. Jayme Yeo

This talk illuminates how the South—and particularly Nashville—shaped Shakespeare through antebellum depictions of race, civil rights struggles, jazz and country music, and more


10 a.m.– Why You Can’t Have a Democracy without Newspapers with Steve Cavendish, Belmont alumnus and editor of Nashville Banner

Cavendish will discuss the importance of newspapers in democracy and how their role is changing in a digital age

5 p.m.– Not Go Away is My Name: A Virtual Visit with the Poet Laureate of Arizona with Alberto Ríos

Arizona poet Laureate Alberto Ríos will join us via Zoom for a reading of some of his poetry, including “Don’t Go Into the Library” and pieces from his latest collection “Not Go Away is My Name,” followed by informal conversation about how living in an bilingual, bi-cultural environment has shaped how he reads and writes the world


10 a.m.– Poor Girls and Book-laden Mules=Access to the World: The WPA Packhorse Library Project with Professor Jeanne Canella Schmitzer

Professor Schmitzer will discuss how WPA Packhorse Library’s helped bring access to books and ideas to eastern Kentucky post-great depression

5 p.m. — The Black Book Project with Meredith McKinney

McKinney will discuss The Black Book Project, which she started to address the lack of cultural representation in children’s literature


1 p.m.- Reading Together: It’s Not Just for Kids: Panel Discussion with Belmont Students and Alumni

In this panel, members of two very different reading groups, The English Alumni Reading Group and the Philosophy Reading Group, will discuss some of the pleasures, intellectual and social, they have discovered through acts of reading (and reflecting) together


10 a.m.– Symposium Wrap-up: Rooted in Reading: Panel with the members of the 2021 Humanities Symposium Planning Committee

Join members of this year’s Symposium Committee for the final session as we reflect together with audience members on what we have learned from the various presentations