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SWSW Graduate Conference Adds Variety of Southern Perspectives to 25th Annual Event

By Carson McKinney
Hottytoddy.com intern

The annual Southern Writers/Southern Writing Graduate Conference provides graduate students a space to share a variety of works reflecting many different aspects of the South. The conference, that begins Thursday, July 18 and continues through July 20, is celebrating its 25th year and will be held at various locations on campus and on the Square. 

A panel of last year’s SWSW panel discusses “Queering the South” featuring Katherine Howell, Austin Svedjan, and Chloe McCrea.

While classic names in Southern literature like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers will be discussed, 5th year Ph.D. program student and SWSW Chair Laura Wilson also brought in a variety of speakers to discuss southern diversity and further the fields of English and Southern Studies.

“We’ve got ecology, Southern Gothic, gender, memory and the queer south and African American experience to show the South isn’t a one-trick pony,” Wilson said. “People come to the South or Mississippi with a lot of preconceived notions as to what to expect: the hoop skirts, the magnolias, the southern belles, the colonels. The conference is a really nice way to showcase what graduate students in this field of study are doing and paving the way for the future of Southern Studies.”

A joint venture between the Ole Miss English and Southern Studies departments and sponsored by the Graduate School, College of Liberal Arts, Department of Writing and Rhetoric and the Division of Outreach, SWSW was founded by Peter Froehlich, a former graduate student and English instructor at Ole Miss, in 1994. On an SWSW Facebook post, Froehlich said “I can’t believe our little baby is turning 25.”

Twenty-five years later, Wilson hopes to add to the legacy and include talks in related southern studies fields like history, art, videos, installations and documentaries, as well as some SWSW favorites to draw in larger audiences.

“The thing I like the most about the conference is that we’ve traditionally had a combination of critical writings, like more traditional essay forms, narratives and edited theses, followed by creative readings in the evenings,” Wilson said. “Those are nice social events that people enjoy.”

This year’s key speaker is Trudier Harris, Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. She will be presenting “South of Hell: Southern Homespaces in African American Literature” from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Jaime Harker, professor of English and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at Ole Miss, will give a faculty presentation from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday entitled “Women’s Space, Queer Space: Landykes, Queer Contact Zones and the Creation of Queer Southern Space.”

“My presentation is drawn from the fourth chapter of my recent book, The Lesbian South: Southern Feminists, the Women in Print Movement, and the Queer Literary Canon,” Harker said. “The presentation focuses on the creation of inclusive spaces in the South, centered in activism and women’s communes, and the ways such inclusive space is depicted by a wide range of Southern lesbian writers. I will be discussing June Arnold, Alice Walker, and Sheila Ortiz Taylor in the presentation.”

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