Annual Howorth Lecture Features Acclaimed Writer bell hooks

OXFORD, Miss. – Ending racism and sexism in society will be explored by acclaimed writer bell hooks in the 16th annual Lucy Somerville Howorth Lecture in Women’s Studies Monday (Sept. 13) at the University of Mississippi. image-output.aspx

The free, public presentation, “Talking Race and Gender: Ending Domination,” is set for 5:30 p.m. in the Ford Center for Performing Arts. A 5 p.m. book signing precedes the program.

Hooks is the author of more than 30 critically acclaimed books on the politics of race, gender, class and culture. Since 2004, she has been distinguished professor in residence in Appalachian studies at Berea College. She was a distinguished professor of English at New York University, as well as a professor at Yale University and Oberlin College. The Atlantic Monthly named hooks as “one of our nation’s leading public intellectuals.”

The name bell hooks is the pseudonym for Gloria Jean Watkins, born and reared in western Kentucky. On publishing her first poetry book, hooks says in her essay “Talking Back” that she assumed the name of her maternal great-grandmother, bell hooks, because, throughout her childhood, this name was used to speak to the memory of a strong woman, a woman who spoke her mind. She states that she lowercases the letters in this pen name to signify the difference in importance between herself, the person, and the ideas in her works, which she believes should capture the reader’s attention more than her individual personality.

The Howorth Lecture is presented annually by the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Numerous campus co-sponsors this year include the University Lecture Series, College of Liberal Arts, School of Education and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Mary Carruth, director of the Isom Center, cites the number and variety of co-sponsors of hooks’ visit to UM as testament to the multidisciplinary and broad popular appeal of her work.

“Since the University of Mississippi is engaged in racial reconciliation and social integration, bell hooks’ vision of a beloved community unafflicted by racism, sexism and classism will have resonance for us,” Carruth said. “Hooks, who made (the term) ‘talking back’ a metaphor for outspoken feminists, is a fitting speaker for the Howorth series, named in honor of another courageous woman, Lucy Somerville Howorth, native Mississippian, New Deal lawyer and women’s rights advocate.”

Primarily through a postmodern lens, hooks analyzes the interconnectivity of race, gender, class and sexuality in education, literature, art, history, mass media, current events, psychology and feminism. Her unique style, often expressed in a black vernacular voice, blends theory with sharp insight.

In her book “Belonging: A Culture of Place” (Routledge, 2008), hooks talks about her return to her Kentucky roots and expresses faith in the possibility of Berea College, founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, becoming “the beloved community”

She completed her bachelor’s degree in English at Stanford University, master’s at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and doctorate in literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Of interest to educators, hooks will conduct a session on “Teaching Critical Thinking for Democratic Education” at 1:30 p.m. in the Paul B. Johnson Commons ballroom. RSVPs to are required by Sept. 10.

Other campus co-sponsors of hooks’ UM visit are the departments of African American Studies, Art, Classics, English, History, Modern Languages, Philosophy and Religion, Political Science, Public Policy Leadership, Sociology and Anthropology; the Chancellor’s Office – Office of Multicultural Affairs, Dean of Students/Multicultural Affairs, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, S. Gale Denley Student Media Center and William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

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