Readers, I am meeting today with a couple of co-organizers of the Walker Percy Weekend 2015, set for June 5-7 in St. Francisville. We are going to finalize the programming. I’d like to know if any of you would be able and willing to participate in any of the following panels. Note well that at this point, we can’t pay an honorarium; we can only comp your hotel and meals. You’d be coming out of love for Percy and Southern literature, and also because the beer is cold, the food is great, and so is the company.
This year, we are going to have two Percy-focused panels, and two panels that have to do with Southern literature in the broadly Percyan orbit. We have not settled on any one panel topic yet; we are just talking about them now, but we have to decide very soon. Things we’re thinking about for this year are:
1. Stoicism, Christianity, and the Religion of the South. Percy observed that Christianity in the South was heavily informed by Stoicism, and indeed was in some cases more Stoic than Christian. Percy wrote a memorable essay about how the South’s more Stoic form of Christianity crippled its response to the civil rights movement. We’d like this panel to talk about what Percy meant by the South being more Stoic than Christian, and the extent to which that still remains the case in an America that Percy (rightly, I think) called “post-Christian.”
2. Walker Percy & David Foster Wallace. We will definitely do a Percy/DFW panel, but we’re not sure quite how to approach it. One idea is to compare the themes in The Moviegoer and Infinite Jest — that is, how both of them discuss entertainment (specifically, moviegoing) as a way to buffer oneself from the experience of life. Another one is to compare Walker Percy’s view of life with David Foster Wallace’s, as expressed in DFW’s famous commencement address, “This Is Water.” DFW killed himself; Percy, a member of a family prone to suicide, died a natural death, and wrote in praise of the “ex-suicide.” This blog post from 2013 encapsulates the discussion I would love for us to have at the panel.
3. Wendell Berry and the Work of Local Culture. A discussion of the sense of place in Berry, and what we rootless moderns can learn from it. Or (and?), comparing Percy’s ideas about place and authenticity with Berry’s.
4. Why Flannery O’Connor Still Matters To the Modern South. Basically I want the great Ralph Wood, who was one of our most popular speakers, last year, to come back and talk about his wonderful book. It would be nice to have one or two speakers to respond to a Wood presentation.
5. Shelby Foote & the Civil War. This year marks the 150th year of the end of the Civil War. I don’t know the historian (and dear friend of Percy’s) Shelby Foote’s work, but it seems right to attempt to put together a discussion of it this year. Ideas? Nota bene, we are not looking for a general discussion of the Civil War, but one tied directly to Foote’s historical writing on the topic.
Any other ideas? I mean, ideas for panel discussions, and for speakers? E-mail me at rod (at) amconmag.com if you’d rather not respond in the comments section.