Five English majors had the opportunity to submerge themselves in a world of literature, language and writing at the 2019 Sigma Tau Delta International Conference. The theme this year was “Work in Progress.”
From March 27 to 31, the group, accompanied by department chair Christina Rieger, Ph.D., joined hundreds of other members from around the country in the home of the nation’s most famous authors, such as Mark Twain and Maya Angelou: St. Louis, Missouri.
During their stay, each of the students had the distinct honor of being able to present their work for adjudication. Being able to present is a feat within itself, with students having to undergo a double-blind review process, which Rieger, speaking from experience, said is difficult.
“I have been a Sigma Tau Delta judge in the past, and it is hard to reject a presentation, but there are only so many slots on the program, so difficult choices must be made,” Rieger said. “We are so pleased that five of our current majors were selected to present.”
Student work included “The Commodification of Feeling in Boswell and Sterne,” by junior Kristian Biega, “A Linguistic Look at The Scarlet Letter,” by junior Andrea Clendaniel, “Pride & Pianoforte: Jane’s Dilettantes & Virtuosos,” by junior Lauren Ganger, “God Help the Reader: Rituals and Redemption,” by sophomore Allison Schweiger and “Performance and Panopticism: Identity in Invisible Man,” by junior Abigail Stevens.
Ganger was specifically recognized for her work, receiving an Honorable Mention award in the British and World Literature category for her paper on the use of music and musicianship in Austen’s “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice.”
“Faculty in the English department are proud of our students as writers, thinkers and artists,” Rieger said. “This is the best national venue to showcase their work. Every year, we have had students win one or more awards for their critical essay or creative writing. Not all universities can say the same, and our majors deserve to get their work out there.”
When not presenting their own work, students spent their days attending workshops and panels of other students’ presentations. The conference also included readings from keynote speakers Nnedi Okorafor, an African-based science fiction and fantasy author, and Tess Taylor, novelist and poet.
“The conference definitely exceeded my expectations,” Schweiger said. “I knew it would be interesting, but I didn’t know that I would have as much fun as I did.”
Even with so much going on at the convention, students had the chance to explore the city and do a bit of sightseeing. They visited the St. Louis Arch, City Museum and even tried the famous St. Louis gooey butter cake.
Rieger hopes that this experience has a lasting impact on them.
“The career coach at the employment workshop noted that English majors often tend to be more introverted and not display the confidence in their abilities that they need to succeed in the world beyond the university,” Rieger said. “Above all, an international honors convention like this is a professionalizing and confidence-building experience.”
Schweiger shared similar sentiments.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience was that there is a greater value in an English degree than most realize,” Schweiger said. “Seeing so many people gathered there with such a love of the language and literature was awesome.”