English students present at Portland conference

Six students represented the Geneseo chapter of Sigma Tau Delta English honor society at the March 20-23 international convention in Portland, Ore.

With a theme of “Open Book,” the conference welcomed hundreds of students from across the country, along with faculty and guest speakers including journalist Timothy Egan and authors Ursula Le Guin and Anne Fadiman. The theme, the program reads, is “enticingly ambiguous” and “connects us with language, writing, reading and books.”

Geneseo students’ participation entailed sitting on four-student panels that included a moderator and student chair. Students shared their accepted writing and received feedback during a question and answer discussion following the readings.

“I didn’t get feedback for my specific work but it helped me to put things in context in terms of what I’m thinking about my own research,” junior Greg Palermo said. Palermo presented his piece “The Succession of Literary Criticism” in the critical theory panel titled “Shades of Derrida and Foucault.”

In his paper, Palermo argues that intellectual history is not linear, comparing it to what biologist Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of biological evolution as a “copiously branching bush,” rather than a “ladder of predictable power.”

Palermo said that the conference provided the sense of an intellectual camaraderie, which he said was necessary, as “a lot of the times in humanities we’re all in our own heads as far as what we’re interested in and where our research is going.”

Senior Lila Chambers presented her paper Elucidating Eugenics: Women on the Edge of Time and Herland in the panel titled “Dilemmas in 20th Century Literature.” Chambers’ paper, originally written for ENGL 338: Contemporary American Literature, focused on eugenics in feminist dystopian literature.

Chambers said that much of her received feedback explored her use of the intersection of history and literature in her writing, and she said that her experience at the conference prepared her for the Phi Alpha Theta regional conference, to be held in Geneseo on April 13.

STD Vice President junior Bibi Lewis and senior Daniel O’Brien shared original poetry in sessions titled “Word Power” and “Under the Influence.”

Lewis said that her panel focused on “poetry that speaks to poems, so things that are aware of its forms and literature being aware of literature.”

The conference, Lewis added, was valuable for collaboration, with feedback and ideas generating from many perspectives. 

“We have one poetry professor here, and while she’s fantastic, we’re all taught that way of writing it,” Lewis said. “Whereas when I went and interacted with other people, their modes were totally different and their opinions of contemporary poetry were flipped.”

Attendees said that the convention provided a breadth of ideas and perceptions. 

“On such an isolated campus, it can be very insular, only talking to 30 or so people who are in our classes,” Lewis said. “You only get those voices, but when you extend it to the national scale, you get a lot more interaction. There’s room for discussion outside of what you know.”

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