English Major Spotlight: Students’ scholarship recognized by the National Symposium
By Dianira Piceno, Senior English Major.
Pictured above: Mekenzie Brock, presenter at the Macksey Symposium.
The English program at SOU would like to recognize the outstanding scholarship of three English majors: Michael Surgeon, MeKenzie Brock, and Taylor Madden. All three students recently submitted papers to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Richard Macksey Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Image above: Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium at John Hopkins University.
The Macksey Undergraduate Research Symposium provides hundreds of students across all fields of the humanities the opportunity to present their work in a three-day professional conference. Due to COVID-19, the symposium was shifted to an online format which allowed for attendees to participate in virtual panels, attend a live virtual keynote, and have the chance to publish in the Macksey Journal.
In a brief interview, all three students answered questions about their submissions to the symposium.
SOU Senior English major Michael Surgeon was a presenter at the Macksey Symposium.
Michael Surgeon, a senior English major, who loves writing poetry and reading postmodern literature, submitted a paper on Claude McKay’s novel Home to Harlem from Dr. Alma Rosa Alvarez’s fall 2020 Harlem Writers class. Michael explains his paper topic, the revision process, and his overall experience:
“My paper explores complex relationships between the main character Jake and Felice. There is some queerness in the novel as it was speculated that McKay is himself bisexual. I did look at Jake’s relationship with Ray and there are some homoerotic themes to be further analyzed. I am still in the process of revising and resubmitting my paper for publication. John Hopkins University has editors to look at my work and give feedback before any of it is printed. Once I get that feedback, I will again revise my work and resubmit. [The experience] was incredible, and I am still taking it all in. That experience was surreal to me. Not only did I get to present twice, I got to listen to my fellow students in the humanities discuss important issues like racism, fatphobia, fascism, classism, and sexism. I made many lifelong friends in those sessions on zoom.”
“Life in the Iron Mills” follows the journey of working-class, Welsh immigrants, Hugh and Deborah who are working in the prime of the industrial era in the nineteenth century.
— EXCERPT FROM MEKENZIE’S ESSAY
Mekenzie Brock, a junior English major who plays for the SOU women’s softball team, shares her paper topic, presentation, and the most rewarding/difficult part of being able to submit her work to the symposium.
“My essay’s title is ‘The Lens of Formalism and Psychoanalysis: Encountering the Gaze in Life in the Iron Mills’ through the Narrative Form, which is quite the mouthful. My essay uses the theoretical approach of Lacan’s gaze theory and Cleanth Brooks’s definitions of Formalism to make sense of the narrative in Rebecca Harding Davis’s short story “Life in the Iron Mills.” From the analysis of this short story, I was able to make sense that the narrator within the story is addressing the readers directly of both past and present to make commentary about the working class and social conditions of the working class peoples.
[The presentation was] AMAZING! It was all held over Zoom but it made things easily accessible during these COVID-19 times. From 6 am (the downfall of being on the west coast for an east coast event) to 4 pm in the afternoon around 300 undergraduate students presented their work in individual Zoom sessions. Everyone in my panel had ten minutes total to present, and there were 5 presenters total. At the end of all the presentations, we were able to ask and answer questions. Overall, it was an enlightening experience and I learned so much from the event.
I think the most difficult part was dealing with confidence issues. As a student and writer, it is easy to settle into the imposter syndrome mindset. There were moments throughout the editing process and leading up to my presentation where I felt inadequate to present or even discuss my paper, but I also had to remind myself that I knew what I was talking about and I was truly passionate about my essay topic. The most rewarding aspect was just being able to absorb so much information from the conference and the pages upon pages of notes I took.”
Senior English Major, Taylor Madden, whose paper was accepted by the Mackset Symposium.
Finally, senior English major, Taylor Madden, loves anything outdoors, paranormal podcasts, and her girlfriend. Taylor talks about her submission and explains why she chose to submit it in the first place.
“I submitted an abstract for a paper I’m working on titled ‘Queering the Affectionate Friend: An Exploration of Lesbianism in Edith Johnstone’s ‘A Sunless Heart.’ It’s a work in progress, but I’m writing about the toxic culture of deeming lesbian relationships a perversion of friendship, and more specifically, how this sentiment arises in the book. I chose to submit to Johns Hopkins because this book is so dear to my heart and very little criticism has been published surrounding it. As a Queer woman, I want to participate in the conversation! Submitting to the journal felt surreal and incredibly exciting. It gave me a sense of forward momentum on conceptualizing my thesis!”
All three English majors share their experiences in hopes to encourage other students to not be afraid to publish their works. The English major at SOU provides excellent guidance for students to blossom as writers and expand their writing portfolios. For more information on opportunities like these, please contact Margaret Perrow or visit the MoodlENG page.
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