Written by: Abigail Tichler & Chelsea Brotherton
On October, 24th, 2014, students and scholars from across the nation gathered in Simpkins Hall less than an hour after the sun rose. These academics were coming together to present and take part in the Academic Conference held by Western’s English Graduate Organization (EGO) and Sigma Tau Delta (STD).
After 9 am, the group divided themselves into several classrooms to hear panels discuss a wide range of topics from early modern drama to suppression and power in film. After several presentation sessions, the group of presenters and listeners was escorted over to the Multicultural Center to enjoy a delicious pasta bar provided by Sodexo. Around 1 pm, the group was escorted to yet another building, the University Union, to enjoy the Keynote Speech by Dr. Julie Rak.
Dr. Rak, a professor of English and Film Studies from the University of Alberta, spoke for more than an hour on the significance of mountaineering and gender identity. Her presentation “What Does Rope Have to Do with Gender?: Mountaineering Writing and the Life of Objects” examined the history of mountaineering with specific detail to gender norms and tied it to the current views of gender and rock climbing. The captivated audience engaged Dr. Rak in a riveting question and answer session during which the topics of gender normativity, mountaineering, and English studies were discussed.
Once the keynote was completed, everyone was escorted back to Simpkins Hall to resume the remaining two panel sessions, where, again, panel topics ranged from creative writing to diversity and identity in the classroom to place, border crossings, and identity in contemporary Latino/a literature.
At the end of the day, the EGO Conference Graduate Student Award was given to Regan Markley from the University of Central Oklahoma for her paper “Pregnancy and the Great Depression: Meridel Le Sueur’s ‘Annunciation’ and the Sublimation of Motherhood” and to WIU’s Cody Cunningham for his paper “The Dehumanization of Body, Nation, and the Motion Picture.” Lucas Marshall, also from WIU, won Honorable Mention for “Werther the Drama Queen: The Unreliable Narrator of The Sorrows of Young Werther.”
After the awards were given, the remaining group of scholars was taken to the STD Writing Workshop, lead by WIU Associate Professor and STD Advisor Dr. Timothy Helwig.