WKU English Department Hosts 2020 Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture
- Joseph Shoulders
- Thursday, November 19th, 2020
The WKU Department of English held the 20th annual Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture on Friday, November 13 via Zoom. The conference is an opportunity for students to share papers they have written in WKU English classes with other students, WKU faculty, and the public. Graduate students of the WKU English MA and MFA programs reviewed submissions to the conference and decided the twelve participants. The graduate students also moderated the event.
The conference lasted approximately three hours split into four panels grouped by topic: “Voices in Verse,” “Recent Rhetoric: A Discussion on Current Events and Language,” “Curious, Spurious, and Injurious,” and “A 21st Century Look at 20th Century Lit.” After each panel, attendees asked the speakers to expand upon aspects of their research.
The speakers discussed a diverse range of topics. Dr. Trini Stickle, who has attended the Undergraduate Conference for four years, said, “I am always impressed with the quality of research and analysis our students accomplish within our diverse course offerings and that is reflected in the students’ work represented by the panelists chosen. This year’s conference was every bit as stunning in the depth and breadth of approaches.”
“This year, our presenters reflected on literature spanning the breadth of the cannon, highlighting culturally timely themes of race and gender. They applied linguistic methods such as discursive analysis to medical admissions policies and speech actions; sociolinguistic approaches to dialect differences; corpus analysis of political speeches; as well as collaborative approaches using corpus analysis of political speeches and sociophonetic analysis of created languages within literature and film,” Dr. Stickle elaborated.
Participants enjoyed sharing their work as well as listening to others. Lizzy Roth, a sophomore Creative Writing major from Murfreesboro, TN, was one of the participants in the “Curious, Spurious, and Injurious” panel. She shared her thoughts on the conference.
“I was really impressed by all of the panelists I got to see, and I loved getting the opportunity to ask questions and get asked questions,” Roth said. “It was nice to get to talk to a ‘room’ full of people who were just as involved and intellectually curious as I was. It was really cool to get to talk about what I'm interested in and get a response back and get insightful questions.”
Dr. Ted Hovet, the organizer of the Undergraduate Conference, thought the event was a success. He shared, “I was delighted that the conference highlighted the talent of English students and the diversity of texts we study, something that came across well even in this unusual virtual environment.”
Roth especially appreciated this year’s conference because of the increase in virtual learning. She explained, “The most valuable [aspect of the conference] to me is the reminder that I have a community in the English department. We're all super passionate about the things that we study, and I feel like some of us could have gone on for hours about what we wrote papers on. It gets lonely when you're not in a classroom filled with equally excited people, and this conference reminded me that the community didn't disappear just because we aren't always in a classroom anymore.”
In the days following the Undergraduate Conference, the graduate students selected three “Best in Conference” presentations. The winners were Hannah Van Winkle in 3rd place for her paper “Standard vs. Nonstandard Varieties of English,” Abigail Raley in 2nd for “‘Get the Tables’: A Metatheatrical Analysis of Professional Wrestling,” and Caitlyn Woitena in 1st for “Are We at War with COVID-19?”.
If you missed any presentations during the event, watch the recording of the 2020 Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture. The program can be found here.