English majors present at scholarly conference

Emily Loof

Copy Editor

Saint Mary’s University students capitalized on the opportunity to present their work in a public setting, according to student attendees of an English conference last weekend in Dubuque, Iowa.  

Juniors Michael O’Brien Britton and Lupita Gonzalez and seniors Rachel Steiner, Ellen Hinck, and Sami Johnston traveled to Dubuque last Friday and Saturday to attend and present at the ninth annual Streamlines Conference. Attendance was a membership activity of Sigma Tau Delta, the university’s English honor society; the Saint Mary’s Student Senate funded the trip’s expenses.

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From left: Gonzalez, O’Brien Britton, Hinck, Johnston, Steiner

The Streamlines Conference is described by its hosts as “a collaborative effort to create unique opportunities for undergraduates to share scholarship and creativity.” The conference is co-hosted by Dubuque’s three colleges: Clarke University, Loras College, and University of Dubuque. This year, University of Dubuque took its turn as host; the three colleges alternate every year. Saint Mary’s has not sent students to the conference in several years, according to Dr. Carolyn Ayers, professor of English and faculty advisor of Sigma Tau Delta.

The conference consisted of four sessions of panels covering a variety of topics that ranged from “defamiliarizing narrativity” to “revisiting the classics.” Of the Saint Mary’s students that attended, three presented their scholarly works. Steiner presented her paper The Fall of Usher: Madeline Usher as the Threatening Other in the same panel as O’Brien-Britton, who presented his paper entitled Quentin Compson’s Meaningless(ness) Anxiety: The Sound and the Fury’s Tragedy of the Southern Gentleman. Meanwhile, Hinck was assigned to a separate panel to present her paper Seeing is Believing: Deceitful Discourse and Visual Communication in Oroonoko.

The student presenters agreed on the benefits of the experience, remarking on the unique opportunity to engage in literary discourse with students from other universities. “It was really neat to be able to talk to people who were on your level and converse with them about literature,” O’Brien-Britton said.     

While Gonzalez and Johnston did not present any of their work, they still found the experience to be beneficial.

“I thought it would be interesting to see how different students who are at different colleges think about the same sort of literature we’re reading and thinking about,” Johnston said.

“It motivated me to work harder on my own essays in order to get on the same level,” Gonzalez said.

Students from ten colleges and universities attended the conference, traveling to Dubuque from as far away as Houston, Texas, according to Jonathan Barz, the conference’s head moderator. Attendees were also addressed by keynote speaker Barbara Lounsberry, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Northern Iowa. Lounsberry offered tips from decades of experience in the publishing industry.

“I’m proud of the students who went through the whole process of reworking their papers and following through to present,” said Dr. Ayers. “I think that’s a useful learning process, not just for English majors but for everyone.”

The conference also reminded attendees how competitive the publishing industry can be, and how important it is for students to, as Lounsberry said, “get their work seen by lots of different audiences.”

“When you hear the other students’ credentials at the conference, and where they’ve worked and been published in, you realize that’s something we should be doing right now, not waiting on,” Hinck said.

O’Brien-Britton echoed her, saying, “It surprises you and it makes you want to look into how to publish, if not this paper, some other paper that I’ve written or will write, because I want to have those credentials if I ever speak at a conference again.”

Next year’s Streamlines Conference will occur on Nov. 11 at Clarke University.

Author: gkvanb13

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