James Agee Conference at Pellissippi State celebrates Appalachian arts, literature

An annual literature conference with an Appalachian focus has branched out this year to include music and photography.

The third annual James Agee Conference for Literature and Arts will be held Sept. 14 and 15 at Pellissippi State Community College’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The free event, which is open to the public, will include master classes led by musician Kelle Jolly, photographer Roger May and novelist Jon Sealy as well as a keynote presentation by author Robert Gipe. Their presentations, all on Sept. 14, will be held in the Goins Auditorium.

“In the past, we’ve had poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction,” explained conference founder Charles Dodd White, an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State. “This year we are going beyond the literary by adding music and photography, which will expand on our arts theme.”

White, who will be inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in October, created the conference largely to give Pellissippi State students an opportunity to attend a scholarly conference while also celebrating the literature, culture and arts of Appalachia.

“Agee is such a particular touchstone for this area,” said White, who is teaching Pellissippi State’s first Appalachian literature course this fall. “The Conference gives us an opportunity to honor his influence while also exploring the hometown portrayal of Appalachia through writing and art.”

White is committed to keeping the conference free so that it remains accessible to students, and he encourages music and photography students to participate as well.

“This lets students get their feet wet and see what a professional literary festival/conference is like,” White said. “These are also really good master classes, which is an excellent opportunity for other aspiring writers and artists.”

Union Avenue Books will be on hand with a selection of Appalachian literature, and conference participants will have opportunities between the interactive workshops to mingle with the presenters and get their works signed.

For the full schedule and more information on this year’s presenters, visit www.pstcc.edu/events/ageeconference.

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