WRITERS CONFERENCE: 'Writing Body'
Writing the Body will be the theme of the 38th annual UND Writers Conference takes on metaphorical, political, sexual theme. "Writing the Body" may seem pretty straightforward at first, but what it means leaves a lot open to discussion, say co-di...
Writing the Body will be the theme of the 38th annual UND Writers Conference takes on metaphorical, political, sexual theme. "Writing the Body" may seem pretty straightforward at first, but what it means leaves a lot open to discussion, say co-directors of the event.
"With 'Writing the Body,' we purposely left out a preposition, whether it is 'Writing about the Body' or 'Writing through the Body,' so it would fit in a lot of different ways," said Heidi Czerwiec, assistant professor of English, a co-director with Liz Harris Behling.
'Writing the Body' can be interpreted in a political, metaphorical or sexual way, they said, and the conference - which begins Tuesday and runs through March 31 - will feature panel discussion, readings and presentations about each of those aspects. Each of the visiting authors will bring his or her own perspective.
Author Mary Gaitskill, for instance, writes a lot about sex and power, Czerwiec said, and Timothy Liu writes about being gay and Chinese American. Leslie Adrienne Miller writes about women's bodies, and in her latest book, "The Resurrection Trade," addresses medical and anatomical drawings, texts and models from the 17th and 18th centuries, which were controversial simply for showing women's bodies.
"Writing the Body," Czerwiec said, could mean using the body as a source of experience through which the world is filtered.
"Li-Young Lee writes very sensual poetry and talks about how for him the writing process is a process of listening very carefully," she said, "and how the body is related to breath and rhythm of the body's pulse. So, for him it's a very physical part of writing."
Movies such as "The Pillow Book," chosen by one of the authors for the film festival that's part of the Writer's Conference, also carry forward the theme, as will "Beyond Likeness," the exhibit at the North Dakota Museum of Art that will open Tuesday. (See separate stories for a full Writers Conference schedule and for information about the film festival and art exhibit.)
This is the first time Behling, an assistant professor of English, and Czerweic (pronounced "SIR-wick") are co-directing the Writer's Conference, an event that has a long and illustrious history at UND. For years, it has attracted some of the foremost national and international authors. Also, it's free and open to anyone who wants to attend, which is one of the aspects that participants seem to like best about it, Behling said.
The Writers Conference is important and relevant both at the community and university level, she said, for bringing literature and the arts to the wider campus community.
"But probably more important is the role it plays in the Red River Valley community," she said. "I'm learning how much it seems to be an event of the Grand Forks area. It's kind of an amazing thing to bring such prestigious writers into the community year after year, into a small community. It's sort of an ushering in of spring and thought."
Behling said organizers will continue to look for ways to keep the welcoming aspect of the event. Every year they scramble for money to pay for the conference, she said, but they want it to continue free of charge so people feel free to walk in.
Czerwiec called the Writers Conference an event like no other in the region, one that lends a certain cachet to the hosting institution.
"It helps create a national identity for our school," she said. "It's not a huge (English and writing) program, and even though this is a liberal arts college, it's been very much de-emphasized in recent years. The college has been focused on, say, aerospace programs, and it's good to remind people there's a tradition and history here of a liberal arts university."
Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or email@example.com .