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APSU hosting state conference commemorating 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death

       CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – No one knows how he died. John Ward, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church, believed the playwright became sick following a drinking binge with friends. The author C. Martin Mitchell hypothesized that a cerebral hemorrhage took the life of the English language’s greatest writer. The Internet is full of theories, ranging from syphilis to cocaine abuse, on the death of William Shakespeare, but if you’re simply interested in facts, all we know is that the 52-year-old bard died in 1616, making this year the 400th anniversary of his death.

      Later this month, the Tennessee Philological Association (TPA)—a statewide association of language and literature scholars—will commemorate this anniversary during its 111th conference at Austin Peay State University. The academic meeting, scheduled for Feb. 25-Feb. 27 in APSU’s Morgan University Center, will feature professors, college students and independent scholars from across the state presenting their research on topics such as “Shakespeare: Body and Place” and “Shakespeare: Archetypes and Structures.”

       The TPA, founded in 1905, rotates hosting a conference in one of Tennessee’s three regions every year. In 2013, Dr. Mickey Wadia, APSU professor of English and TPA executive board member, looked at a calendar and realized the next Middle Tennessee meeting would take place in 2016. That’s when the Shakespeare scholar began lobbying for his institution to host that event.

         “APSU was selected because I asked for the meeting on our campus to do a statewide celebration of the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare,” he said. 

         In addition to paper presentations, the conference will host a special panel at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26, titled “Assessing Shakespeare’s Relevance in the 21st Century.” That event, which is free and open to the public, will feature Wadia, along with Dr. Rusty Jones, Murray State University English professor; Dr. John Parker, Lipscomb University English professor; and Denice Hicks, artistic director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.

          “And Friday night, during our banquet, we’re doubling our entertainment by  having Red River Breeze play (Renaissance-era music) during the dinner,” Taylor Emery, chair of the conference planning committee, said. “When they finish playing, Darren Michael, APSU associate professor of theatre, and a few of his students, will present a short Shakespearean piece.”

            Language and literature scholars interested in other subjects will also attend the meeting to discuss topics such as 20th Century American literature or linguistics and pedagogy.

            “It wouldn’t have been appropriate for the theme to be anything but Shakespeare this year, but the TPA does not limit submissions to the annual theme,” Dr. David Major, APSU English professor and TPA vice president, said. “If the theme is the novel, we still have people who present on poetry, people who present on film.”

            And, Major and Emery noted, APSU usually has a significant number of graduate students who participate in the annual conference.

            “We encourage our English graduate students to give papers at this,” Emery said. “It’s a very friendly conference. It let’s them get their feet wet.”

            For more information on the TPA or this year’s conference, visit the association’s website at www.apsu.edu/tpa