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WVU Libraries to host online Pearl Buck symposium

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 1st, 2021
Pearl Buck and daughter
Pearl S. Buck with her adopted child Chieko Usaki Walsh, circa 1962.

West Virginia University Libraries and the WVU President’s Office will co-host the 2021 Pearl S. Buck International Symposium from Nov. 4-5. The online event is titled “Wisdoms of Pearl: Examining the Life and Legacy of Pearl S. Buck.”

Jay Cole, senior adviser to WVU President E. Gordon Gee, explained the meaning behind to the event’s title. “Pearls of wisdom” is a saying and a metaphor expressing the belief that wisdom is valuable and worthy of admiration. By inverting this saying to “wisdoms of Pearl,” referring to Pearl S. Buck, we have the theme for the 2021 Pearl S. Buck International Symposium.

“This theme allows us to examine the ‘wisdoms’ Buck shared through her writings, speeches, advocacy, and global humanitarian efforts, both during her life and as part of her legacy since her death. This theme also allows us to examine the ‘wisdoms’ many others have gained from Buck’s work, from literary scholars and historians to artists and diplomats,” Cole said.

Born in Hillsboro, W.Va., to missionary parents, Buck was the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature. While she is probably best known for her novel “The Good Earth,” her parents’ biographies – “The Exile” and “The Fighting Angel” – helped earn her the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Her legacy extends far beyond her accomplishments as a novelist. Buck regularly addressed issues surrounding race relations, the oppression of women and minorities, children’s welfare and other humanitarian issues of the time.

She was particularly interested in the plight of the mixed-race children who were fathered by western servicemen serving in Asia during the mid-20th century and then abandoned when the men returned home. In addition to being an advocate for these children, Buck founded an organization that arranged for the adoption of more than 5,000 interracial children.

“Buck’s work in promoting the welfare of children around the world provides an excellent example of how someone born in West Virginia can grow up to change the world,” West Virginia and Regional History Center Director John Cuthbert said.

WVU Libraries and the WVRHC became caretaker of Buck’s archives in October 2014 after beginning a partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College, who previously housed the collection, and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation to protect and promote the Buck Collection and Buck’s legacy.

In 2019, WVU entered into an agreement to co-host an annual Pearl S. Buck International Symposium with partners including the Pearl S. Buck Memorial Hall in Bucheon City, Republic of Korea, the Pearl S. Buck Research Association in Zhenjiang City, People’s Republic of China, and the Pearl S. Buck International in Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

The 2021 symposium will consist of five plenary sessions, each featuring one speaker who will have 45 minutes to present a paper related to the symposium theme. The lineup will include:

  • Zeng Jingting, Associate Director and Deputy Dean of School of Foreign Languages, Jiangsu University of Science and Technology, will present a talk titled “Harmony and Coexistence: The New Trend of Pearl S. Buck Research in the New Era.”
  • Chong-ko Choi, President of Korea Pearl S. Buck Research Association; Emeritus Professor of Law, Seoul National University; poet; will present “Pearl S. Buck and the Korean Independence Movement, 1919-1945.”
  • Phyllis Lubin-Tyler, Site Coordinator of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace in Hillsboro, W.Va.; independent scholar; will present “Pearl S. Buck’s Vision for a Living Gateway.”
  • Professor Lu Zhangping, Doctoral Supervisor of Jiangsu University; President of Zhenjiang Pearl S. Buck Research Association; Counselor of Jiangsu Province Government; and former Director of Jiangsu University Library, will present “An Overview of Pearl S. Buck Studies in China.”
  • Chung-ho Chung, Vice President of Korea Pearl S. Buck Research Association; Professor Emeritus of English Literature, Chungang University; literary critic, will present “Pearl S. Buck’s View of Traditional Korean Culture in The Living Reed: An Essay.

To accommodate the 12-hour time difference between Morgantown and Beijing, Nanjing, and Zhenjiang, and the 13-hour time difference between Morgantown and Seoul and Bucheon City, the symposium itinerary scheduled the sessions for the early morning and late evening.

The schedule and registration are available online.

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