Northwestern State University will host the 13th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 25. Due to the ongoing pandemic the conference will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams. Scholars from throughout Louisiana as well as five other states will make presentations on aspects of Louisiana culture, folklore, history and literature. Admission to the conference is free and open to the public.
This year’s conference theme is Heroes, Saints, and Outlaws. Thirty-seven scholars, cultural authorities and creative writers will make presentations. Some of the many topics to be discussed include Louisiana literature, languages, legends, labor history, history, folk stereotypes and caricatures, politics, folk insults, heroes, outlaws, trickster figures, race relations, and climate change and environment challenges. Creative writers will also address the conference theme, including poets John P. Doucet, Olivia McNeely Pass and Mona Lisa Saloy, Louisiana’s current Poet Laureate.
“Attendees at this year’s conference will get an increased sense of the many different kinds of folks that have had a profound impact upon Louisiana’s rich cultural, political, and social history,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of NSU’s Louisiana Folklife Center and co-chair of the conference. “Examining the impacts of those that have gone before us provides important ways of understanding how we got to our present cultural moment and its challenges. The conference is free and open to the public, and we want to invite anyone who is interested in Louisiana to join us and to take part in these conversations!”
The Saturday morning keynote, “Becoming an Outlaw: How and Why the Folk Undo an Ordinary Life” will be given by Dr. Keagan LeJeune, Professor of English and Folklore at McNeese University. His book “Legendary Louisiana Outlaws” was the winner of the 2017 Louisiana Literary Award and the winner of the 2016 Brian McConnell Book Award presented by the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. Writes LeJeune about his presentation, “Why are some outlaws loved by so many? Why do their stories keep being told? Are there specific traits essential to an outlaw reaching legendary status? What is the role of an outlaw legend within a place’s oral traditions? To answer these questions, this presentation explores some of the popular outlaw legends told in Louisiana and their common characteristics by recounting the legends and lives of a few Louisiana outlaws and considering their motives for breaking the law as well as the local support they received. Finally, it discusses the outlaw-hero as a folk figure and that figure’s connection to the people.”
LeJeune’s address will be followed by the presentation of the winning essays from the 13th Annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest. Writing on the 2021 contest theme, “Louisiana Heroes,” entrants were invited to explore the following questions in their essays: “Who is a Louisianan you greatly admire? How has this person’s example benefitted you?” Several of the winning essays will be presented at the conference and all of them will be published in the Louisiana Folklife Journal, the Louisiana Folklife Center’s scholarly journal.
This year’s Contest winners are Gabrielle Murison of Belle Chasse High School for the first-place essay “From On-Screen Superhero to Real-Life Superhero.” Apryl D. Gallo, also of Belle Chasse High School, won second place for her essay “Band Hero,” and Riley Leger of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches won third place for his essay “Reflections on my Pawpaw, his Life, and Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus.” Three students received Honorable Mention: Cameryn Broussard of Carencro High School for her essay “My Father,” Jeremiah Hopkins of Belle Chasse High School for his essay “Gumbo Queen,” and Keara Nelson of Natchitoches Central High School for her essay “Gumbo and Magnolias.”
“This year’s theme for the essay contest, Louisiana Heroes, promised to deliver, and deliver it did,” said Sharon Wolff, Assistant Archivist at the Cammie G. Henry Research Center and co-chair of the Contest. “I was delighted by essays that covered figures ranging from personal heroes to literal superheroes straight from the comics. All touching to read, and all clearly written from the heart. It was a joy to see what figures kids looked up to, and how they compared to the figures I looked up to when I was their age. It turns out, not much has changed.”
A complete conference schedule and links to the conference sessions can be found at www.nsula.edu/LSC13. If accessing the meeting via tablet or smartphone, it is necessary to first download the free Microsoft Teams application. For more information call the Louisiana Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.
The Conference is co-sponsored by the Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the NSU Center for Inclusion and Diversity, the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the NSU Office of Recruiting and the NSU Office of the President.