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English professor shares insights on Lillian Smith's writings

Dr. Tanya Bennett is working on a book of essays about Lillian E. Smith as the editor and author of the introduction and one of the volume's chapters. She presented at the Lillian E. Smith Symposium on Oct. 26 at Piedmont College's Athens campus.

When Dr. Tanya Bennett decided to research Georgia native and writer Lillian E. Smith, she did not expect her curiosity to lead to such an energetic conversation about Smith's work.

"I presented a conference paper on Smith's ‘Strange Fruit,’ and a representative of University of Mississippi Press heard it," said the professor of English at the University of North Georgia (UNG). "They told me they had been wanting to publish a book about her."

Bennett accepted the project and reached out to experts on Smith, who was at the forefront of desegregation efforts in the 1940s. Bennett's work on the book of essays about Smith, as editor as well as author of the introduction and one of the volume's chapters, led to an invitation to present at the Lillian E. Smith Symposium, organized by LES Center Director Matthew Teutsch. Titled "Celebrating Lillian E. Smith," the event was held Oct. 26 at Piedmont College's Athens campus.

"I hope this will spark a new interest in Smith's aesthetic," Bennett said. "People know of her as a desegregationist and an activist, but she was poetic. She was a top-notch intellectual and artist, and she should be studied as a literary figure."

Bennett hopes with renewed interest in Smith, her books such as "Strange Fruit" and "Killers of the Dream" will appear more often on college syllabi.

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