Missouri State University
Department of English Blog

The 3rd Annual Undergraduate Literature Conference 2017

By Taylor Shaw-Hamp and K. Shartel Hall

Calvin Coon reading his work

Missouri State University presented the 3rd Annual Undergraduate Literature Conference this past Friday and Saturday. Missouri State students from a variety of programs presented in-depth research on a multitude of texts, such as Christina Orlandos’ inspection of the roles of women in the public and private spheres in stage plays (“Women as Detectives and Jurors in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles”) to TJ Pyatt’s analysis of poetry (“Stevie Smith: Poetry Transcending Sex and Power”) to Amanda Hadlock’s study of the shifting dynamics of women in DC comics (“Historicism, Structuralism, and Feminism Applied to Alan Moore’s Watchmen: Changing Cultural Conventions for Heroes and Women in Comics”). The texts varied from classic to modern and there was a little bit of everything in between. Audiences listened to these incredible papers while enjoying light refreshments of tea, coffee, and pastries courtesy of the department.

To participate in the conference, students submitted abstracts which were reviewed by the Conference committee comprised of faculty members and graduate students. After selection, the students worked with graduate students on the conference committee to tailor their presentations to a conference format. The Undergraduate Literature Conference was the first conference style presentation for several students, though it did boast some returning faces from previous years. The students who presented range across the discipline, and a number of the students who presented have indicated their desire to continue with similar studies in the future, some at the graduate level.

Christina Orlandos answering audience questions

The opening day of the Undergraduate Literature Conference was Friday, April 21 at the Plaster Student Union. The first round of panelists for the session titled “Women in Literature” read their papers to an audience of standing-room only. Christina Orlandos, Calvin Coon (“‘Lion Strength’ and Christian Femininity in The Chronicles of Narnia”), and Elizabeth King (“Pearl of Beauty: An Analysis of Pearl’s Role in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter”) all participated in this session and fielded questions from peers and professors alike following their papers.

For the second round, TJ Pyatt, Michelle Trantham (“The Spark of Life: Lack of Moral Sympathy in Frankenstein”), and Zachary Rea (“Out of Touch: A Shift in Human Intimacy in Alexander Weinstein’s Children of the New World”) presented thought provoking papers about words, knowledge, and the role of technology in our lives in the session titled “The Risks of Human Relationships.”

Dailynn Turner reading her work

The third panel was titled “Challenges to Gender Convention” in which Dailynn Turner (“A Miserable Spectacle of Wrecked Humanity: Frankenstein’s Homosexual Anxieties”) presented a new way to interpret Mary Shelly’s great classic. Seth Hadley (“Gabriel Conroy in James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’: A Representation of Patriarchal Society’s Response to Feminism”) pointed out other ways than just Marxist criticism to read Joyce, and Amanda Hadlock had everyone’s attention as she displayed comic strips on the projector screen during her literary criticism of graphic novels.

The first day of panel sessions ended with “Interrogating Race,” with presenters Katie Jones (“Dehumanization through Ploy: Langston Hughes’s The Ways of White Folks”), Allison Minicky (“An Insincere, Pacifying God: How Richard Wright’s Religious Experience Paved a Path to Communism”), and Aundrea Davis (“The Furrow of Her Brow: Revolutionary Construction of Black Female Community in Toni Morrison’s Paradise”) bringing the sessions to a close, but not before engaging in a lively discussion with the audience on the questions raised by their papers.

This year’s keynote speaker for the Undergraduate Literature Conference was Missouri State’s own Dr. Jonathan Newman. Following the last panel session, Dr. Newman explained how medieval poetry served as a social medium in his presentation “Literary Confession and Social Exchange in the Middle Ages: The Case of Thomas Hoccleve.” He introduced the audience to this lesser studied peer of Geoffrey Chaucer, and discussed some on his ongoing research on the subject which he is working to expand into a book length study.

The Undergraduate Literature Conference resumed Saturday morning to a large crowd with Maggie Morris (“The Roles of Public Performance and Personal Agency in Ophelia’s Suicide”), Noah Standish (“Stigmas and Masculinity in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room”), and Tianna Snyder (“AIDS Representation in Clive Barker’s Sacrament”) as panelists in the session “Gender and Sexuality.”

TJ Pyatt and Michelle Trantham listen and respond to questions from the audience

The next hour followed perfectly with the panel “Sexuality in Popular Culture” featuring Genevieve Richards (“Girlish Obsessions: Victorian Society and Contemporary American Culture”), Megan Rogers (“Art as the Riot Grrrl’s Weapon in The Awakening”), and Kimberly McMurray (“Denial of Bisexuality: Bi-Erasure in Orange is the New Black”). In the question period, Genevieve expanded on her points, having condensed her paper from a larger seminar project, Megan handed out materials to the audience that would have prominence in the Riot Grrrl movement, and Kimberly discussed how modern media is moving away from a norm of bi-erasure.

Jupiter Kieschnick (“The Fearful Sublime: Browning’s Use of Tone to Create Awe through Terror”) and Ryan Davies (“Adjusting to the Dark: An Exploration of Love’s Multiplicity in Gone Home”) switched things up with their panel “Experimental Narratives.” Both students spoke passionately on these unique narratives, exploring darker and more complex narrative styles. For the second year in a row, the conference has featured compelling papers on topics unconventional in the field, bringing to light their relevancy in our field.

Amanda Hadlock reading her work

Bringing the 3rd Annual Undergraduate Literature Conference to a close were the panelists Scott Rossi (“Medic! A Brief Ethnography of Street Medics”), Ashley Blankenship (“Teaching Ethnicity in the Ozarks: Michael Gold’s Jews Without Money”), and Gabrielle Riegel (“Abortion Activism in Cider House Rules”) with their session “Literacy and Cultural Activism.” Scott spoke from his own personal experience as a street medic, explaining the need for more critical research on the topic, while Ashley brought a compelling argument regarding current pedagogy in High Schools. Gabrielle, our last presenter of the conference spoke compellingly on a difficult conflict present in the novel she examined.

Overall, this third Undergraduate Literature Conference was a wonderful success with fascinating, beautiful, and thoughtful scholarship from Missouri State students. The audiences had incredible follow up questions, prompting the panelists to speak more on their research and inklings. Congratulations to this year’s panelists and thank you for sharing your amazing research! We’re already looking forward to next year’s sessions!

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The English Education Department Presented Their Biannual MoGEA/MoCA Student Panel

MoGEA panelists (L) Ellen Stefan and (R) Tiffany Taylor

Each semester the Missouri State University English Education program hosts a panel of students who have recently taken and passed the Missouri General Education Assessment and Missouri Content Assessment, two requirements for progress toward state certification. These test takers are always incredibly valuable to their English education colleagues who are coming up on those assessment milestones in their English Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) careers.

The Missouri General Education Assessment (MoGEA) is the first big assessment all BSEd students must take and pass prior to admission to the Teacher Education program. There are four individual parts—Reading Comprehension, Writing, Math, and Science and Social Studies. English BSEd students ask panelists questions about how they successfully prepared for the test, what study methods they chose, and when they recommend taking the assessment. On Thursday, April 6, 2017, Ellen Stefan and Tiffany Taylor shared their experiences preparing for and passing the MoGEA.

MoCA panelists (L) Tori York and (R) Christina Story

The English-specific portion of the Missouri Content Assessment (MoCA) is the assessment students must pass in order to obtain their certification to teach high school English in Missouri’s schools. Student panelists are incredibly helpful as they advise colleagues about what to study specifically, including what course notes to absolutely hang onto and review. They comment frequently on the usefulness of their English content coursework. Current student teachers, Tori York and Christina Story, also walked future test takers through their own successful study methods.

The Missouri State University English Education program is committed to building and nurturing a community of teacher candidates who are well prepared to support each other as they prepare for their teaching careers.

Keep your eyes open for the Fall 2017 MoGEA/MoCA panel announcements coming next semester!

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Interdisciplinary team filming in Jordan

Dr. W.D. Blackmon, English department head, co-authored Inside Syria — A Phyisician’s Memoir with the book’s subject, Dr. Tarif Bakdash. This collaboration became the foundation for a multimedia, interdisciplinary project that now includes faculty, students and alumni from the department of media, journalism and film.

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Blackmon is currently in Jordan with Dr. Andrew Cline, associate professor in media, journalism and film, and a group of alumni — members of the documentary production team Carbon Trace Productions. The team is working in conjunction with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), filming the work of Dr. Bakdash and others in Jordan’s refugee camps.

The team is gathering footage for a documentary with the working title Syrian Doctor. They’re also recording interviews with SAMS doctors, and Andrew Twibell, assistant professor in media, journalism and film, will direct a group of students in editing the interviews.

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Crew reassures friends back home

Given current events, many people have expressed concern about the Syrian Doctor team’s security. Cline assured us that he and the rest of the team feel safe. “We have no extra security concerns because Jordan is a stable U.S. ally,” he said, “and we are more than 200 miles from where the strike occurred.”

Instagram Photo

Follow their experience

Keep up with the Syrian Doctor team while they’re in Jordan by following them on social media:

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English Education Alumna Receives State Recognition

Fall 2016 English BSEd alumni Desirae Eagle talks about receiving a 2017 Greef Award, student teaching, and how Missouri State University’s English Education Program set her up for success.

Every year colleges and universities around the state nominate outstanding English teacher candidates to be recognized by the Missouri Council of Teachers of English. This year, Missouri State University Alumna Desirae Eagle (Fall ‘16) was awarded a 2017 Greef Award. She attended the special award ceremony with her student teaching cooperating teacher, Ms. Amanda Wood, from Pleasant Hope High School.

As she reflected on the recognition, Desirae remembers how and why she came to Missouri State University. Becoming an English teacher wasn’t originally on her radar, “I originally came to Missouri State to do the electronic arts program,” Desirae said, “My senior year we visited, and I really liked the campus; I thought it was really pretty, I really enjoyed just the whole community feel of Springfield.” But something didn’t feel right about choosing that degree; while she was (and still is) deeply passionate about music, it didn’t feel like the right career for her. That was when she recalled wanting to be a teacher when she was younger. She was always passionate about reading and writing, and couldn’t forget the meaningful impact her English teachers had on her. That direct impact and interaction felt like the future and meaning she was longing for. Desirae decided to check out the English Department her second semester Freshman year, so she made an appointment to talk to someone in the English Education department. That was it—she changed her major that day and didn’t look back.

Desirae has valued a great deal about her time in the English Bachelors of Science in Education (BSEd) degree program, and especially the strength of her content preparation through English department courses. “What I appreciate is that I feel like I know my content. There’s no worry. I covered bases: American, British, everything.” Missouri State’s extensive survey courses and in depth literature classes prepare students to feel confident as experts in the Western canon.

With such a strong knowledge base, Desirae has been able to focus on what is most important about her pedagogy: passion. A trinity of knowledge, passion, and creativity has allowed Desirae to hone in on how to creatively apply ideas that come from literature to everyday life. “With English and teaching in high school, there is so much creativity with it. Of course, at the end of the day, I would love my students to know about Sophocles or know Antigone forwards and backwards, but I want them to pull away those themes, those ideas of ‘Ok, Antigone talks about civil disobedience, where can we apply that later on?’ and so it’s that idea of applying text-to-self or the knowledge to our society, and I think that’s what makes English Education and English classes relevant.”

Desirae seeks to foster in her own classroom the kind of classroom community that she has come to value at Missouri State and in the English education program—something that helped her succeed as a first-generation college student. “No one in my family knew ‘Oh, when you get to college, this is going to happen.’ I didn’t know anything about living in the dorms or that you had a resident assistant or that they were there to help you and all the resources—I was clueless.” Missouri State made navigating university life manageable and she found a community in which to thrive and grow. Her own perseverance took her far in the first place, but she also understood it’s not possible to get through college in a vacuum.

Missouri State has since taken strides to help their first-generation students navigate these obstacles, and Desirae was one of the first peer leaders that helped other first-gen students like herself adjust to college life and understand what to expect and how to ask for help at the university.

When asked what advice she has for other students, Desirae had to think for a moment. “There’s a lot of things you could tell other students who are coming in, but I guess for freshmen, it’s important to know there are resources and to ask questions.

I think Missouri State does a really good job offering resources and giving those, like, ‘Here’s this center if you need this, and here’s this center if you need this’ so, it’s that community feel that I really like.”

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Explore the Midwestern roots of a literary icon

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, 2017 inductee to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame

Langston Hughes is most commonly associated with the Harlem Renaissance, but he spent his early life in the Midwest.

Dr. Matthew Calihman, associate professor in the English department, said, “I do think Missouri is important to him,” noting that regional geography and events often emerged in Hughes’ writing.

Visiting scholar and documentarian Dr. Carmaletta Williams will unpack these influences during a multimedia presentation timed with Hughes’ induction to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame.

Key details

A global artist and mentor

Hughes’ association with public affairs stems not only from his lifetime engagement with politics and society, but also from his role within America’s literary tradition.

“He’s a tremendously important figure — a giant,” Calihman said. “He had great influence on contemporaries.”

Calihman’s own research includes African American writers from the 1960s and 1970s, some of whom received direct encouragement from Hughes. “He was tremendously important in terms of cultivating African American writers,” Calihman said.

About visiting scholar Dr. Carmaletta Williams

Dr. Williams is the author of Langston Hughes in the Classroom (National Council of Teachers of English; 2006) and the co-editor of My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938 (U of Georgia P; 2013).  She won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston on Kansas City Public TV and Kansas City Public Library’s program Meet the Past.

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A New Study Away Opportunity for Missouri Author Fans and History Buffs Alike!

Both English and History secondary education students, literature majors, and poets will love this tour of Missouri authors from the past and present.

I sat down with Dr. Cathie English to hear a little bit about her brand new intersession course ENG 565/665: Write Across Missouri. This 3-hour mixed Undergraduate/Graduate course is offered through the Study Away program (Study Away tour portion only is 1 credit hour: ENG 184) and will take Missouri State students all across the State of Missouri. From Mansfield to West Plains, St. Louis to Hannibal, Kansas City and back again, students will have an incredible experience interacting with the landmarks and contemporary authors of Missouri’s most famous writers.

“When I proposed it, it was really with undergraduates in mind,” Dr. English said, “but I always perceived the class to be more geared towards in-service teachers, or pre-service English ed[ucation]. Or,” she added, “it could actually be for people in the social sciences because there’s going to be a lot of historical stops along the way. We’re going to go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and when we go to West Plains we’re going to the place of the Ballroom Explosion.”

The West Plains Ballroom Explosion was a 1929 tragedy responsible for the deaths of 36 young men and women. It’s a central event in The Maid’s Version by native Missourian and contemporary author Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bones). While in West Plains, students will enjoy a private lunch with Woodrell where they can ask him questions about life as a novelist and what is it like to have one of your book be turned into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. (Seriously, what is that even like?!)

The bus trip will continue to St. Louis where students will get to visit the St. Louis Art Museum; walk by T.S. Eliot’s residence; stroll around Washington University, founded by Eliot’s grandfather, William Greenleaf Eliot; Kate Chopin’s residence at the time of her death; Calvary Cemetery to visit Chopin’s, Marianne Moore’s, and Tennessee Williams’ graves; and much more. “Of course, the stop in Hannibal, MO is all historical!” Dr. English enthused. Students will visit The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, his father’s law offices, and other stops that readers of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will find familiar.

The experience will end in Kansas City, MO. On the itinerary is the Kansas City Library—individuals will recognize it as the city block that resembles a row of books—and a private conversation and Q&A with former Missouri poet laureate William Trowbridge.

The thing that will particularly appeal to English students is the time spent in each place. After the tours and immersion of the history, students will have time to sit at each stop and take some time to write, reflect, and create. “There’s a sense of writing in a space and sharing without giving any kind of feedback.” Dr. English explained. Once students get back from Kansas City, they’ll have a final group dinner and a student read-aloud of their favorite works they wrote during the trip. “At this final read around, we’re also hosting a reading by Dr. Blackmon and other MSU creative writing faculty. Dr. Blackmon has agreed to give autographed copies of his book.”

ENG 565/665

The two weeks leading up to the Study Away portion will consist of several readings of each author of each destination. Assignments will be online, and Dr. English does give a warning that the reading will be “pretty intense” (although certainly engaging). The larger readings will be Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little House on the Prairie, The Maid’s Version, and The Glass Menagerie (the play by Tennessee Williams was set in a St. Louis apartment). Shorter readings which will most likely be manageable during the trip itself will consist of the poetry of Maya Angelou, T.S. Eliot, William Trowbridge, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, and short works by novelists Jonathan Franzen and Jane Smiley. Obviously, the bus rides might seem a little long, so the bus will be used as a mobile classroom so to give mini lectures and play documentaries to give students a fuller understanding of the people and places they’ll be studying.

This Study Away intersession is a trip of a lifetime: multiple stops, great stays, writing on location, personal meetings with published authors, and much, much more! If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please contact Dr. Cathie English at CathieEnglish[at]Missouristate[dot]edu and register for ENG 565 (Undergraduates) or ENG 665 (Graduate or Accelerated Master’s Program Undergrads) today!

The Study Away portion will last for 5 days, beginning June 5th and ending June 9th. The cost will be $1,390 and will include travel costs, hotels, a few meals, and entrance fees. It may be possible to apply your financial aid to the cost of this once in a lifetime trip, so please contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss possibilities.

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Study Away: Write Across Missouri

Student viewing artifacts at the Wilder Museum
Exhibits at the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum

Experience our state through literature

Join Write Across Missouri and absorb the landscapes that inspired Tennessee Williams, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder and many others.

Tap into this inspiration with plenty of opportunities to write as you travel across the state with a fun and supportive group.

Dr. Cathie English will lead this study away experience. She answered the following questions about what you can expect from it.

Why should I go?

You’ll learn about the places and spaces of some of Missouri’s most notable writers, and it’s a chance to learn more about the culture, history and geography of our locale.

We’ll travel through both rural and urban spaces. You’ll learn about cultural influences upon Missouri writers, especially in the urban sites as we study art, music and literature. You will learn about Missouri history as we visit museums and historical sites associated with the writers we study.

How will this complement what I am learning in classes?

During the two weeks prior to our Study Away, we’ll read the fiction and poetry of notable Missouri writers. We typically rely on our imaginations to conceive settings, but during the Study Away, we may walk the same ground our writers walked, experiencing the settings they wrote about and learning the history of various sites.

How do I know if this is a good fit for me?

If you love to read and you want to know more about writers and what inspired their writing, this trip is for you. Also, if you love to write, we’ll be writing each day and in each space or place we visit!

And if you’re a teacher of English, language arts or history, you’ll have opportunities to collect artifacts and information to share in your own classroom.

Key details

  • What: Write Across Missouri – Study Away experience focused on Missouri writers
  • When: Course (online class + Study Away): May 22–June 9, 2017; Study Away tour only: June 5–9, 2017
  • Where: Across the state — visiting both rural and urban spaces
  • How: Access more information; Apply online
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