August 22, 2014  

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Mother/Nature Conference Scheduled for March 16-17

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The many facets of motherhood will be open for discussion and interpretation during the inaugural Mother/Nature Conference, set for March 16-17 at The University of Southern Mississippi. The conference, sponsored in part by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, will be held at the Thad Cochran Center.

From hurricanes to oil spills, human beings are invariably linked through the loss and degradation of regional and national habitats. The conference seeks to discover interconnectedness and meaning through a study of the shifting influences on the evolving definition of motherhood and consider the conception of the intersection of motherhood and the natural world.

“We’re all tied to nature in many different ways and very connected to our environment on a fundamental level,” said Southern Miss doctoral student Paige Gray, who helped organize the conference along with fellow doctoral students Jennifer Robertson and Laura Hakala. “We thought it would be interesting and enlightening to see what kind of research has been produced concerning the connection between motherhood and nature.”

The conference will include research presentations, panel discussions, poetry readings and special addresses by scholars in the fields of literature and science.

Dr. Barbara T. Gates, Alumni Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware, will be the keynote speaker. Gates is an author and Victorianist who studies female nature writers and scientists.

“During the 19th Century, women were often considered the passive objects of scientific study, rather than producers of knowledge,” said Robertson. “Dr. Gates’ work recovers this lost history of women who explored and investigated the natural world and shared their knowledge through art and writing.”

Other featured speakers include Dr. Catherine Roach, New College Professor in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Alabama and author Janisse Ray, Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow at Chatham University.

Among the many topics open for discussion during the conference are:

  • Theories of childbirth in the United States
  • Nature vs. nurture
  • Single parenting
  • Masculinity and motherhood
  • Educators as “mothers”
  • Protecting endangered species and landscapes
  • Redefining motherhood in pop culture

The conference is free and open to the general public. For more information or to register, visit: https://www.usm.edu/english/mothernature-conference

In addition to MHC, other conference sponsors include: The Office of the Vice President of Research; the Committee on Services and Resources for Women; the Department of English; the Honors College; Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association; the English Graduate Organization; the Graduate School; University Libraries, and VISITHATTIESBURG™. The College of Arts & Letters also played a significant role in making the conference possible.

About the Mississippi Humanities Council
MHC is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. MHC sponsors, supports, and conducts a wide range of programs designed to promote understanding of our cultural heritage, interpret our own experience, foster critical thinking, encourage reasonable public discourse, strengthen our sense of community, and thus empower Mississippi's people with a vision for the future.