Belmont Abbey College holds first literary conference
BELMONT—In a beautifully archaic auditorium at Belmont Abbey College, more than 70 people gathered to listen to keynote speaker Dr. Stanley Fish, world-renowned literary theorist and legal scholar. "Why are you here? It's a nice day," Fish asked in his keynote address Saturday afternoon.
Fish wondered why there were so many young people present "doing what we are told is dying and needs justification." Belmont Abbey College, a liberal arts college, hosted the conference, showing a commitment to that which Fish was acclaiming: an education centered on the arts. And the conference's high attendance confirmed Fish's argument for and demonstration of the power and value of literary art.
Pictured: Dr. Stanley Fish, one of the country's leading public intellectuals and a world-renowned literary theorist and legal scholar, gave the keynote address to kick off Belmont Abbey College's first literary conference June 22. (Photos by Anthony Perlas, Catholic News Herald)
Fish's address was part of the first Belmont Abbey College Literary Conference, which explored the theme of "Transformations in Literature." The attendees and presenters included students, alumni, faculty and staff of Belmont Abbey College, along with members of Belmont Abbey's monastic community. Also in attendance were students and faculty from schools such as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Charlotte, Ave Maria University, University of Notre Dame and Wingate University.
The conference kicked off Friday, June 22, and continued through June 24. As papers were presented and talks were given, the weekend was broken up with coffee breaks, literary conversations and a banquet dinner.
Organized by Assistant Professors of English at Belmont Abbey College Drs. Al Benthall and Joseph Pizza, the event took more than a year of preparation. The hard work paid off with a well-attended, lively weekend focused on literary art.
"For Dr. Benthall and I," Pizza said, "the most enjoyable part of organizing the event was listening to the fine papers that were given and taking part in the engaging literary discussions that they inspired."
Conference papers addressed a range of writers from classical, medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary periods, and they explored an array of topics.
Fish is one of the country's leading public intellectuals and a world-renowned literary theorist and legal scholar. Currently professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, he is a prolific author, having written more than 200 scholarly books and articles. He is also a frequent media commentator and has appeared in such venues as CNN, "Hardball" with Chris Matthews, "The O'Reilly Factor," NBC Nightly News and many NPR stations.
The professors who organized the conference were faced with limited funding and the pressure of putting together a conference from scratch. However, Pizza acknowledged, "in overcoming those challenges we were aided by the encouragement and support of many on campus, especially by Dr. Bill Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College, by Dr. Carson Daly, the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, by her administrative assistant, Kathy Shaw, by Jillian Maisano, the Assistant Director of Marketing, by Denise Boykin in the Office of Administration and Finance, and by Jenny Ross, the catering manager at Chartwells. Without their help, the conference probably would not have taken place."
— Christopher Lux, correspondent