Belmont University hosted it’s twenty-first Humanities Symposium last week. The schedule was laden with presentations, panels, and interviews that keenly examined the relationship between the regional south and its complex history. The event series was hosted by the School of Humanities with support and assistance from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS)
The Symposium’s theme of “The Haunted South” was borrowed from humanities professor and symposium co-chair Dr. Sue Trout’s general education course which explores the folklore, myths, and urban legends of the American South.
“Although many people assume ‘haunted’ is tied to ghosts, the course actually interrogates what a haunting is from many perspectives, looking specifically at what problems (race, gender, class) that continue to haunt the region of the South,” Trout said.
The Symposium offered an extended exploration of aspects that haunt both the South and the Belmont campus. The Symposium’s planning committee structured each day’s topics to focus on one of the five strategic pathways.
“Our goals for the symposium are always to introduce students to the importance of the humanities, and this year we wanted to simultaneously embrace the ways the university is moving into the future as well,” said symposium co-chair and CLASS faculty Dr. Susan Finch.
Attendees had the opportunity to hear from faculty and staff from across campus along with an esteemed group of featured guest speakers.
Essayist and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, Margaret Renkl gave keen insights to her books Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss and Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache in From the American South. Belmont history department professor Dr. Pete Kuryla moderated a conversation with Renkl and discussed topics ranging from Renkl’s naturalist observations in her garden to her experiences of familial loss.
“Late Migrations talks a lot about my grandparents, a lot about my great grandmother,” Renkle said. “They didn’t have television at my grandparents’ house, so people sat on the front porch and told stories. So often the stories were about people who I never knew but became real to me because they were with me all through my childhood. When your people start dying, they aren’t gone. They are with you always. It feels as though you live partly in the past and in the present.”
New York Times bestselling author Tom Franklin and award-winning author T.R.C. Hutton were also featured authors who spoke at the symposium. Among the symposium speakers was also Sunny Eaton, who works to overturn wrongful convictions in her role as the director of the conviction Review Unit at the Davidson County District Attorney’s office. Eaton shared accounts of compelling wrongful convictions cases and talked about the key factors that often result in wrongful conviction.
The Symposium exists as a lens to showcase the teaching, scholarship and value of the humanities. From athletic spaces to health-related implication to the deep roots of the diverse geographical landscape of the South, the Haunted South Symposium examined the regional south from a myriad of perspectives.
“The South continues to be an evolving landscape, culturally, politically, ethnically, artistically,” Trout said. “We wanted to reckon with the complicated history of the South and its impact on our daily lives.”
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