Speaking Nature Conference at Pitzer

Pitzer College has been chosen to host the annual Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (INCS) Conference this year. INCS is a national organization of scholars and the conference topic this year is “Speaking Nature” in order to reflect global environmental issues and Pitzer’s investment in sustainability. The conference will be held from March 31st through April 3rd and will feature presentations on the 19th-century views of the complex relationships between man and nature. The INCS conference is co-organized by Sumangala Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of English at Pitzer, and Barri Gold, an associate professor of English at Muhlenberg College. The event will feature panelists presenting short summaries of their papers, and 90 minutes of group discussion.

The conference will cover a myriad of topics—innocence, beasts, race and gender, science and technology—all through a nineteenth-century lens. Bhattacharya chose the 19th-century because, as she explained, that era “deeply shaped our present-day modernity…To understand ourselves and the present in terms of the choices we make about the environment, sustainability, and the world, we have to understand past conversations."

Many notable scholars will be speaking at the event. James Kincaid, a renowned English professor at University of Southern California and past Guggenheim Fellow, will present on “The Laborious Construction of the Natural Child.” Stanford English professor Robert Polhemus will discuss the Frary mural Prometheus and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s history professor, Harriet Ritvo, will present on “Animal Migration and Assimilation.”

Pitzer President Laura Trombley will be presenting on Mark Twain, a topic on which she is an expert. As a Mark Twain scholar, Trombley has already published three books on his life. Her most recent book, “Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years,” was issued earlier this month, and she traveled around the country for the national book tour. As a graduate student, she discovered the largest known cache of Mark Twain letters. Trombley also made an appearance in Ken Burns’ documentary on Mark Twain.

Multiple senior scholars will hold a round table discussion that focuses on how to sustain the humanities in higher education. Students interested in studying humanities in graduate school are encouraged to attend.

“While students learn about the environment in class, they rarely get such a historical and interdisciplinary look at the idea of the 'natural,'" says Bhattacharya.  "It's also a great opportunity to interact with faculty and advanced graduate students from across the nation. Intellectually passionate discussions with like-minded scholars are what make good teachers and life-time students.”

The event is free for students of the Claremont Colleges, all of whom are welcome to participate and offer their opinions during the panels. Laura Harris, a professor of English and Africana Studies at Pitzer, is moderating the event. It will be sponsored by INCS, Routledge Annotated Bibliography of English Studies, the Pitzer College Dean of Faculty, and Pitzer Strategic Initiative Funds. For more information, please refer to the page on Pitzer’s website that was designed by web architect Laurie Babcock.