By Dalton Carver
Literature and the environment will collide at “The World We Have Imagined” conference, beginning April 4. An international event, scholars from different countries will attend to present and speak about both topics and how they can be learned about together.
“I think it is the first academic conference in a long time,” said Alice Bendinelli, assistant professor of English.
An academic conference is an event in which different scholars come and meet around a topic, which can be either specific or broad. As well as being an international conference, the event will feature scholars from different disciplines, including science and history.
Southwestern has a unique opportunity in hosting this event, as Winfield isn’t exactly the hotspot for international and academic conferences. “Usually conferences are held in nice locations with lots of facilities and after-conference activities,” said Bendinelli. “Winfield is a nice town, but it definitely cannot compete with San Francisco or San Diego.”
Sally McGuire, liberal arts and sciences senior, plans on attending the event. She believes the event will be good for the school. “I feel like Southwestern is constantly growing in its efforts to be more environmentally-friendly,” she said. “This is a great way to emphasize that growth.”
Despite there not being a specific budget for conferences, the English department’s own initiative earned this chance.
“Part of the budget comes from the money that the participants pay in order to be there,” said Bendinelli. “But they were very supportive and enthusiastic about the idea of it.”
The conference coincides with the research interests of both Bendinelli and John Scaggs, professor of English and program coordinator of the English Program. “It also meets the college mission in that we try to be a sustainable campus,” said Bendinelli. “Even if the conference itself isn’t about sustainability, environmental issues are.”
Bendinelli will play the main host of the event. “I’ve been with Professor Scaggs selecting participants,” she said. “We couldn’t say yes to everybody, we had to say no to some.
“We are trying to make things as easy as possible, because we know that we’re asking a lot.”
The things that students have the opportunity to learn about may be different than what they expect. “It’s not so much to learn about the way the environment is suffering or affected by humans,” said Bendinelli. “It is more to develop a sort of consciousness and ethical dimension.”
One of the panels at the event, chaired by Professor Michelle Boucher, is about utopias and dystopias. “I think in that panel in particular, the discrepancy between how we are living and what could happen to us will be discussed,” said Bendinelli.
There were a couple factors behind the name of the conference itself. “Literature is a form of representation, whether it is a poem, short story or a series of novels,” Bendinelli said. “Partly, it is because there is a discrepancy between what we imagine the future is going to be and the future that we live in.”
“Students can come listen at no cost, so I sincerely hope that everyone on campus comes to at least one session,” said McGuire. “It will surely be a nice break from classes and something refreshing for students to listen to.”
Dalton Carver is a sophomore majoring in communication. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @dalty_james.