From Feb. 29 to March 3, 12 Geneseo students attended the Sigma Tau Delta International Honor Society Conference in New Orleans, La., to present their creative writing or critical works in literature.
The conference featured a number of panels where students collaborated to present their individual work in the context of larger themes.
“Some panelists provided a close reading of their chosen texts, whereas other panelists chose to engage wider social issues,” said junior and Co-Academic Chair of Geneseo’s Sigma Tau Delta Matt Cordella. For example, junior Emily Webb presented a collection of poetry titled “Rambling Through Life,” while seniors Jesse Goldberg and Stasia Monteiro participated in a panel whose theme was “Building and Rebuilding” and discussed the 2008 Housing Crisis.
Senior STD President Gabrielle Gosset said that Geneseo was one of the best-represented schools at the conference, a sentiment reiterated by all the attendees.
“Not only did they strongly represent themselves as individuals, they really did Geneseo proud,” said English professor Gillian Paku in a phone interview. “The quality of all our students was outstanding.”
Both Goldberg and senior William Porter came away with awards for their presentations. There were three categories for critical papers: British Literature, American Literature and a more general category for papers that worked across genres or national canons. Golberg was awarded first place in this latter category for his paper titled “Sacrificial Expenditure: Race and the 2008 Housing Crisis,” while Porter placed third for his paper “A Moral Defense of Poetry.”
“My paper was a meditation on the role of race and white privilege, specifically within the narrative of the housing crisis,” said Goldberg. “Instead of looking at the housing crisis in terms of the numbers … I looked at the housing crisis as a story, or narrative, and tried to identify how that telling has imbedded ‘social scripts’ or ‘cultural performances’ within it.”
“Hearing [Goldberg and Monteiro’s] papers on the housing crisis and white privilege against the backdrop of the recovering city of New Orleans certainly made the issue seem more immediate,” said Cordella.
Many of the attendees noted that the conference was a particularly exciting experience because there are so few opportunities for undergraduate students to present their academic work on such a large scale. Additionally, while the conference provided a lot of perspective on larger social issues, it brought a newfound appreciation for English as a field of study.
“I think English as a field doesn’t do a very good job promoting itself as an important field of study,” said Goldberg. “It made the field of English more relevant, more important and more something that needs to be taken seriously … It reminded us why we study English.”
Attendees said they returned with some individual learning experiences in addition to collective ones.
“I was definitely able to get a better sense of myself as a writer,” said Webb. “For so long I’ve been trying to identify myself through my writing and how people perceive my writing, and it was really great to get feedback, positive or negative, to help me establish that.”
“When you think about New Orleans jazz music, players are kind of creating this swirl of sound while being able to improvise, and you get different kinds of melding of sounds,” said Goldberg. “At the convention you had these people from all over the country adding their different voices and different accents in a space at the same time and you get this seemingly discordant, but – when you listen carefully – actually really melodic blending of different people’s perspectives on the same field.”