Society can benefit from challenging its assumptions and examining its relationships with nature, by studying writers who delve into the natural world to better know their place in it.
These were among the concepts discussed by J. Scott Bryson, professor of English at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, during a recent plenary address at La Sierra University’s third annual Natures Conference. His presentation, titled “Textual Politics: Inspiration, Influence, Participation,” attracted 23 graduate students from two Golden State university systems and three California private schools, including La Sierra.
The Natures Conference, held February 18 at La Sierra, involved concurrent paper presentation sessions on a variety of topics including art, film, history, and religion. The papers were grouped into various sections such as “Philosophical Inspiration in Textual Productions,” “Interpreting Politics as/in Literature,” and “The Influence of Religious Politics on Reading Texts.”
During his plenary talk, Bryson discussed his current work at Mount St. Mary’s College guiding students in his Los Angeles Literature class in the discovery and analysis of books about Los Angeles. Groups of three to five students are required to create Web sites with links to books and authors, with plot outlines and other information including depictions of elements specific to the city.
Graduate students presenting at the conference represented seven universities: La Sierra University; University of California, Riverside; University of California, San Diego; California State University, Dominguez Hills; California State University, East Bay; Claremont Graduate University; and California Baptist University.
La Sierra’s English and Communication Department and the College of Arts and Sciences host the annual conference. Lora Geriguis, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of the Master of Arts in English program, is faculty sponsor for the event.
Christopher Blood, a graduate student in literature at Cal State East Bay, said he saw La Sierra’s announcement on the University of Pennsylvania’s call-for-papers web site. His presentation was titled “Urban Environments and the Nature of the City: Perceived Estrangement of the Individual from the Natural World in the Poetry of Whitman, Berry, and McGrath.” It included commentary from his years of experience working for the National Park Service and continual migration between the wilderness and the metropolis of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Communications major Rathyna Gomer was one of the La Sierra students attending the event. She wrote in a reac- tion paper that she was inspired by the “passion behind it all. There have been times where I have encountered a lull or lack of motivation in regards to my academic career, but this conference definitely reignited my joy. Hopefully, someday in the future I will also be able to be a presenter at a conference and share my passions and knowledge with those who are willing to learn and listen.”