Literary conference draws big names

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    On Oct. 26-29, the University of Dallas and Baylor University co-hosted the annual literary conference of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW) on UD’s campus.

    The conference created a forum for wordsmiths of all trades.

    Since its inception in 1994, the ALSCW mission statement has been to bring about dialogue between writers, genres, and fields within the literary world, interpreting “literary” in its broadest sense.  Several UD faculty members are members of the organization.  

    Last year, Dr. Matthew Spring and Dr. Andrew Osborn presented at the annual conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.

    As Baylor is far less accessible from an international airport, UD was reached out to as a possible site for the conference.  Dean Sanford signed off on hosting the event on campus.

    “Part of the impetus behind this organization is that it all involves the humanities,’” Dr. Ernest Suarez, President of the ALSCW, said. “It involves all the arts. So what we do is bring together people who are literary critics, literary historians, novelists, poets, musicians, editors [and] high school teachers. What we want to do is break down all these barriers. What unites us is the art.”

    Thursday evening, the event opened with a poetry reading by Kwame Dawes, Emmy-award winning author of 20 books including novels and poetry, and professor at the University of Nebraska.

    On Friday, the panels began, covering topics such as “Bob Dylan and Poetic Song Verse,” “Homer,” and “In Memoriam Derek Walcott: The Short Poems.”  Panelists included UD English professors Dr. Eileen Gregory and Dr. Osborn.  

    The evening closed with poetry readings by two world-famous poets: former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion and Peter McDonald.

    Sir Motion is known in part for his work with the Romantics, especially John Keats, of whom he has written a biography (which inspired the 2009 film “Bright Star”).  His style is marked by a modern clarity and precision, while rejecting modernity.

    McDonald’s work as a critic has focused on the poets from the beginning of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th, especially Irish poets such as Seamus Heaney.  

    McDonald spoke on his poetic style, and how translating Homer influenced his work.

    “I think in a way, that having done that translation, I think it has sort of helped me to write my own poetry in ways that maybe build in more story than would have been,” McDonald said.  “Because typically my poetry has kept the stories, whether they’re my stories of my life or others, slightly to the edges of the poem itself.”

    Saturday was a day of panels: Topics included “Shakespeare in the K-12 Classroom,” “Traumatic Memory and Its Representation in African Literature,” and “Dream, Vision, and History in Neoclassical and Romantic Literature.”  

    The end of the evening included a banquet with remarks by President Keefe, Dr. Ernest Suarez, President of the ALSCW, and Dr. Richard Russell, Vice President of the ALSCW.

    Dramatized excerpts from James Joyce’s “Dubliners” were presented by Declan Gorman and Matthew Spengler.   

    The high point of the evening was Sir Christopher Ricks’ talk “Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize,” in which Ricks discussed “Dylan’s redefining, in crucial ways, what it means to sing.”

    Christopher Ricks is the former President of ALSCW and the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of Humanities at Boston University, and has taught English at Oxford, Bristol, and Cambridge.

    An ALSCW council meeting Sunday morning closed the conference.

    “I think the conference was a huge success, Osborn said. “and I’m very glad we got a chance to make it happen.”

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