On Monday, July 18, the University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research welcomed over 40 researchers and enthusiasts from around the world into Zimmermann Library’s west wing for the opening event of the 15th International D.H. Lawrence Conference, celebrating the life and work of the early 20th-century English writer.
The conference is held every three years in different locales of relevance to the author and his writings. For Feroza Jussawalla, a professor emerita in the UNM English Department and specialist in Lawrence, the conference serves as a good reminder to UNM students and faculty of the value the author brought to our state, which Lawrence saw as a space for a potential utopia.
“I think it's very important to teach students about D.H. Lawrence, because he was sort of an immigrant to New Mexico … Lawrence conceived of this northern New Mexico as a kind of utopia called Ranonym; he wanted to make a kind of utopian community … He was trying to bring all the people together,” Jussawalla said.
This year, the UNM-owned D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos, where the author lived for 11 months with his wife while he worked, will host the majority of the conference. Audra Bellmore, associate professor in the Center for Southwest Research and curator of the John Gaw Meem Archives of Southwest Architecture, hopes that the conference will reaffirm to UNM the importance of the preservation work they’re doing at the ranch.
“I’m hoping that UNM’s really showing some commitment to preservation at the ranch from this moment forward,” Bellmore said. “It's really great for UNM to realize that it has these important things and to really understand the importance of our ownership of the ranch, and to really understand how we can use that for outreach and to leverage that — to really make connections with scholars and with visitors from all over the world.”
Part of the value the conference brings, according to both Jussawalla and Bellmore, is the increased international attention it brings to New Mexico, the ranch and the archives. With over 100 guests expected to attend the ranch over the next week, a number of whom hail from foreign countries, they hope to show the world what New Mexico has to offer.
“This conference is particularly important because it’s an international conference. It’s bringing scholars from all over the world with the D.H. Lawrence International society. We’re getting them onto campus, showing them our great collections … Maybe they’ll come back and visit us on their own to do research in the archives,” Bellmore said.
Conferences like this also serve to increase the archival content of the CSWR, which aims to collect all relevant materials on D.H. Lawrence that it can for preservation and research purposes. Paik Nak-chung, an international guest and professor emeritus from Seoul National University in Korea who has studied Lawrence since his undergrad and wrote his thesis on the author while at Harvard in 1972, donated two books he had written on Lawrence to the growing collection.
“One of the books is in English. It’s a related publication of my Ph.D. dissertation … The other book is in Korean —- published just two years ago — that sort of sums up my several decades of research,” Dr. Nak-chung said.
After Lawrence’s death, his wife Frieda Lawrence donated the 166-acre ranch to the University, alongside a series of other possessions. This action started the massive Lawrence archive partially presented by the CSWR at the opening.
The conference will run until July 23. Students interested in viewing items in the collection can contact the Center for Southwest Research.
Spenser Willden is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @spenserwillden