“The Ozarks in Reality and Imagination” is the theme of the 13th annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 19-21 at the West Plains Civic Center.
Hosted by Missouri State University-West Plains, the event celebrates various aspects of Ozarks culture and history through a variety of presentations and performances.
Funding is provided by the West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA); the University of Arkansas Press; and Carol Silvey, West Plains. Silvey is a long-time history professor and former director of development at Missouri State-West Plains. She currently serves on the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
“Your average Ozarker is probably familiar with outsiders’ assumptions about our region. Those perceptions of hillbillies and backwardness do not usually reflect reality,” said Dr. Jason McCollom, assistant professor of history at Missouri State-West Plains and coordinator of the symposium. “Our presenters will investigate this contrast through a variety of studies related to history, literature, poetry, geography, and even comic strips such as Li’l Abner.”
WPCA Art Exhibit
As in past years, WPCA will sponsor an art exhibit related to the symposium’s theme beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19. “Ten area art teachers explore the conference theme through their work,” McCollom said. “We are always grateful for the participation of the WPCA in the symposium.”
Another key sponsor of the event is The University of Arkansas Press. “We are pleased to have a meet-and-greet event with the authors of three new Ozarks-related books from the press,” McCollom said. “Come chat with Dr. Phil Howerton (“The Literature of the Ozarks”), Dr. Jared Phillips (“Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks”), and Dr. Andrew Milson (“Arkansas Travelers, Geographies of Exploration and Perception, 1804-1834”) from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m. Sept. 20.”
The symposium’s keynote address will be given at 5:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, by Dr. Jared Phillips, assistant professor of international studies at the University of Arkansas. He will discuss his book on Ozark back-to-the-landers, “Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks.”
“Counterculture flourished nationwide in the 1960s and 1970s, and while the hippies of Haight–Ashbury occupied the public eye, a faction of back-to-the-landers were quietly creating their own haven off the beaten path in the Arkansas Ozarks,” McCollom explained.
“In ‘Hipbillies,’ Phillips combines oral histories and archival resources to weave the story of the Ozarks and its population of country beatniks into the national narrative, showing how the back-to-the-landers engaged in ‘deep revolution’ by sharing their ideas on rural development, small farm economy, and education with the locals—and how they became a fascinating part of a traditional region’s coming to terms with the modern world in the process,” he added.
Phillips’ keynote address will include a roundtable discussion with some of the central figures of his book who were integral to the back-to-the-land movement in the Ozarks.
Other presentations during the symposium include:
- “Li’l Abner and the Trickster Archetype” by Dr. Thomas Kersen, associate professor of sociology, Jackson State University;
- “Do You Still Live There? In Investigation of the Rhetorical Discourse of Success and Hometowns in the Ozarks” by Leslie Reed, Instructor of English, Arkansas State University;
- “Mapping Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s Environmental and Cultural Perceptions of the Ozarks” by Dr. Andrew Milson, professor of geography, University of Texas-Arlington;
- “The Far End of the Ozarks: Reality and Imagination in Suzette Haden Elgin’s ‘The Ozark Trilogy,’” by Dr. Sharon Buzzard, professor of English, University of Missouri-Columbia;
- “The River White: A Confluence of Brush and Quill” by Dr. Ken Hada, professor, department of English and languages, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma.
- “Fiction Reading: Land of Joys” by Dr. Steve Wiegenstein, author of “Slant of Light,” “This Old World” and “The Language of Trees”;
- “The Am Olam Commune Experience: From Memoir to Novel” by Mara W. Cohen Ioannides, D.S., senior instructor, English department, Missouri State University and president, Ozarks Studies Association;
- “The Perception and Reality of the Ozarks as ‘Holy Hills’: Insights from Harold Bell Wright’s Fiction” by Dr. John J. Han, professor of English and creative writing, Missouri Baptist University;
- “‘Oh, Everybody Does That!’ Evaluating the Community Wealth Impacts of Wild Harvesting in the Ozarks Highlands” by Dr. Sarah Hultine Massengale, county engagement specialist in community and economic development, University of Missouri Extension;
- “Mountain Life is Far From Ideal: Catherine S. Barker’s ‘Yesterday Today: Life in the Ozarks (1941)’” by Dr. Blake Perkins, assistant professor of history, William Baptist University;
- “Poems on Ozarks Culture” by Dr. James Fowler, professor of English, University of Central Arkansas;
- “African Americans and the Cooperage Industry of Leslie, Arkansas: A Reinterpretation” by Darren Bell, archival assistant, Arkansas State Archives;
- “Wayfaring Strangers: Rural Students and the Integration of Faith and Reason in the Ozarks” by Dr. Robert Griffith, dean of academic and student affairs, Ozark Technical Community College-Table Rock Campus;
- “The Telling of the Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard Case: Reifying Negative Imaginings of Ozark Mothers” by Dr. Charity Gibson, assistant professor of English, College of the Ozarks;
- “The Damnation of Ozark Riverine Systems vs. the Weirdness of Paddlefish in Reality and Imagination” by Mark Spitzer, associate professor of creative writing, University of Central Arkansas;
In addition, a group of Missouri State-West Plains students will share their poems about the Ozarks on Friday, Sept. 20.
More information about the symposium, including a complete schedule of presentation times, can be found online.