Feminism, Graduate Schools, and the Game of Thrones Victor!

Although slightly belated, I wanted to be sure to post about the AMAZING experience I had during my trip to Cincinnati for the International Sigma Tau Delta Convention!

Although long drives are never fun, they make for a great setting for intellectual discussions about things such as feminism, graduate schools, and who will survive and be the victor at the end of Game of Thrones (can you tell we are major literary nerds yet?). Plus, this drive was shorter than our trek to Louisville last year, so that was a bonus!

The Seeking Freedom conference this year was AMAZING! With over 400 presenters (a good deal more than the prior year), there were panels to attend on EVERYTHING. But on top of that, we were in a city that was excited to have us and we were excited to explore every inch of it in between talks about Edgar Allen Poe and Jane Eyre. We took advantage of every opportunity that came our way, including an offer from a local bookstore to give us 20% off one book each day of the conference, and when we found bar trivia in the area, we couldn’t turn that down! One day after all the sessions were done, we even hopped a trolley to check out a local brewery, Rhinegeist Brewery.0323181912 The most intriguing part of that excursion was trying to figure out how to use the trolley app for ride tickets and the inexplicable artwork we found once we made it inside (see above photo).

I loved all the sites we saw and the people we met, but the bonding that inevitably happened between myself and my 4 fellow classmates and presenters was truly something special. Although we are all seniors, within the same department, and 3/5 of us are even officers for our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, I don’t think any of us really new much about the others. And yet we were all there for one another. We attended each other’s panels and sat in the audience glowing like proud parents, not being shy about showing our support for our fellow members. We dealt with each others quirks and extremely different personalities and made sure everyone had a great time.0324181357c

As a transfer student who is only spending 4 semesters at Slippery Rock University, friendships that “last a lifetime” were not so easily found for me. I came in

 

at a time when everyone had already formed and strengthen their own bonds to each other after spending 2 years of freshman and sophomore struggles together. But Sigma Tau Delta has offered me the chance to make more friends and connect with others who are as passionate about literature as I am. Both this year’s conference and last have been such wonderful opportunities for a girl who, a year and a half ago, knew no one in her new school that is 7 hours away from everything that she did know. I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences I have had and the friendships I have made thanks to Sigma Tau Delta.11438

 

–Kelsey

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We Are All Writers

I mentioned the other day that it’s refreshing to be around others who love and appreciate writing as much as I do. And, as predicted, it has definitely become more apparent throughout the different panels I have gone to.  

WOW! Some of the panels are so good! Anna, Adam, and myself went to a fiction panel this morning and it was probably the best one that I heard (which includes mine, dang it). The stories themselves were well put-together, but they were also well-rehearsed. One person’s story included an excerpt from a song and instead of reading it like I would, she sang it! Another person didn’t even need her paper up there with her. She seemed so excited to share her work. She used hand gestures, different voices for different characters, and was so engaged in her story. It made it much more entertaining to listen to, but also it was amazing to see her passion and commitment to her work.  

There have been a few times that I have thought, “wow, these are really good papers and presentations. How in the world did my paper get accepted?!?” It’s too easy to compare yourself with others, especially in this setting. It wasn’t until I heard comments from other presenters that made me feel much more comfortable. Things that were said (not exactly word for word, but something along these lines) were:

“I thought this piece was really good, but then it was work-shopped and I realized it wasn’t done and was actually really bad.”

“I changed my point-of-view three times before being happy with it.”

“I deleted everything multiple times and probably will do it again when I get home.”

My immediate thoughts were, “Hey, me too!”

 

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 I just have to remind myself that we all struggle. We all want to rip up our story sometimes. We all stare at blank pages for far too long. We are all at different stages.  But, we are all writers. We are all on the same team.

I am excited to attend the gala tonight to see who won the awards (hopefully someone from Slippery Rock!). Everyone is so deserving of it because writing is hard! It’s even harder to get up at a podium and speak to a room full of strangers (students and professors). That fact that we all are here (five from SRU and hundreds from around the world), is something to be proud of.  

-Courtney

 

Cincinnati, Where Pigs Fly

I wasn’t clear on why flying pigs featured prominently on the city’s souvenir t-shirts and magnets until I picked up a guidebook at the entrance to the bookstore a block from our hotel. The meat-packing industry capitol, Cincinnati loves its winged porcine images, and like any professional in English, I can appreciate a  symbol of a local social narrative and history.

It’s my second year accompanying students from SRU’s Eta Delta chapter of Sigma Tau Delta to the international convention. Like last year, we trekked far but not too far to listen to and engage in discussion with other undergraduate and graduate students in the honorary. We’ve heard literary analyses, creative fiction, and nonfiction pieces. I’m going to recap one panel from Friday that I found particularly fun and still intellectual. There were plenty of panels of literary analyses on pop culture scheduled, but if one includes a paper title with a mash up of SpongeBob and Karl Marx, you can bet that will be the panel I attend.

This panel, “Contemplating American Values in Popular Culture” consisted of four panelists presenting on the film The Big Short, the British comedy series Skins, lyrics from the pop punk band “The Wonder Years,” and my favorite episode of SpongeBob Squarepants respectively.  There was a common thread of class critique running through each presentation, but the most pronounced metaphor of a proletariat uprising was analyzed in the SpongeBob episode. Lively conversation followed the analysis of SpongeBob’s teaming up with a jellyfish exploited for Mr. Krabs’ restaurant in order to organize against the capitalist Krusty Krab. We argued over the intended audience of SpongeBob and what that would mean for such a message, but we also discussed the deeply ironic ways in which the episode has generated images (particularly the one of Spongebob carrying the net chasing a jellyfish) that have been slapped on lunchboxes, t-shirts, school supplies, etc. to merchandise and capitalize on the popularity of the show. If SpongeBob’s writers are supposed to suggest a marxist view to its young audience, they sure have predictably allowed capital to co-opt the message. *Insert cheeky Patrick Star wisdom that sounds insane at first but captures the logic of commodity fetishism.*

This was just one enjoyable panel among many that I attended. Our own students have done very well presenting their work and speaking about it among their peers. They have been supportive of each other’s presentations and discussing ideas even after a panel has ended. Going to convention is such an energizing event, and I think we are going to return with a renewed sense of purpose and identity thanks to Sigma Tau Delta. You don’t have to take my word for it; keep reading our entries!

–Dr. Shoe

The Rise of the E=MC Hammers (and other stories)

As per usual, I wigged out right before it was time for my Sigma Tau Delta presentation, so instead of thinking about the impending doom of my one and only shot to impress my friends, sponsor, and an assortment of strangers, here are my five favorite things about my time in Cincinnati so far.

  1. Trivia

From the first night in Ohio, my goal was to find bar trivia. One, yes, because I love it. Two, because we have a van-full of brilliant English majors. Thursday, Adam told us he found a restaurant doing bar-style trivia, and we made the trek of 0.6 miles to the promised land. Not only did we pair up with some other Sigma folks, we had some of the best sushi of our lives AND won $10 for our slightly-above-average 3rd place win (Heck yeah, E=MC Hammers!). Considering we pulled that out after trailing behind 4 teams in the first half, I’m proud. Considering some of the categories were “Teas” and “Linguistics,” I think we were probably in the right place at the right trivia, but we may also be Trivia Gods. The jury is out.

2. Coffeeshops & the Occult

On Friday, after a day of panels, Anna and I had time to kill, so we ended up finding a street of new-age coffee next to a metaphysical/occult shop. I got a lavender cappuccino (I KNOW!) and Anna was very enthusiastic about her hot chocolate. The shop next door was full of crystals, sage, and incense, all new territory for Anna and me, but considering some of the panel topics of the day we were feeling witchy enough to peruse.

3.  The Booksellers on Fountain Square

This little bookshop is incredible. It was a bookstore, a  keepsake shop, and a cafe all in one. On top of all that, they gave Sigma attendees a 20% discount on their books! I think at the end of the week, everyone begrudgingly grabbed a book or two. I’d love a place like this in Slippery Rock! If we had been locals, it would have been a great place to eat lunch and find your next favorite book. It even had convention-specific books on display!

The English department is pretty big. Between the sheer number of majors, minors, and enthusiasts its hard to meet and keep track of everyone– let alone the confusion of the different tracks. Kelsey, Courtney, Adam, Anna and I have had at least one class together (Hi, Dr. Hurt! I remembered to do my discussion post assignment!) but otherwise, run in different circles in the department. Even though Adam, Anna, and I all work on SLAB, I hadn’t been able to spend much time with them because we all work in different capacities. It has been so awesome to get so many different majors (Lit Studies, Creative and Professional Writing) together in a room. It makes me appreciate my department and be proud of the College of Liberal Arts at SRU. I think the fact that we had so many tracks represented at Sigma Tau Delta indicates the undeniable strength of our department, starting (of course) with our sponsor Dr. Shoemaker and our other advisors Dr. Ruppert and Professor McGinty. I think all of us are blessed to be a part of a program that has the reputation like ours. In fact, a woman asked Kelsey about Dr. O’Connor DURING the Q&A session after her piece which was mostly funny because she called him “Mark O’Connell” so I’m guessing they were the fast friends she implied.

5. The Conference

Even as we tried to diversify our Ohio experiences outside of just the convention, it’s hard to deny the impact the Sigma convention has. All of us are seniors, and it is so easy as we prepare for grad school or the job market to forget the underlying passion all of us seem to share for this field. Hearing the incredible presentations of my SRU friends along with those of others from across the country (shout out to Guam!) has renewed my excitement to gear up for grad school AND finish out my final few weeks at Slippery Rock University. I have so many memories of this school and department– so many experiences that have changed my life. I guess I’ll have to add this one to the list.

 

– Victoria

English is Awesome

We made it to Cincinatti! First off, I want to say what an incredible opportunity this has been, even being only on day 2. Today was the first day of panels and I didn’t really know what to expect. This is the largest conference I have ever attended (my other two being the SRU Colloquium), so this is a big stepping stone for me. The rooms were smaller than I imagined, and I am very grateful for that! It was nice to be in a room of like-minded people who understand and appreciate the hard work that we all have put in to be here. I’m sure this will be even more apparent as the week goes on.

Adam presented his piece today and did a fantastic job! He answered all the questions they threw at him like a champ! I’m excited to hear everyone else’s presentation tomorrow and Saturday.

Aside from the conference, it’s so nice to hang out with other English students from SRU. Students that I have seen and communicated with in class, but nothing more than that. It is nice to get outside the school walls and learn more about each other.

Last night at dinner, after laughing about random conversations, we talked about how awesome our English department is. For one, sending us to this convention and two, caring about us and our success. As a transfer student, SRU was a breath of fresh air. Other schools I have attended did not have as many organizations, clubs, and opportunities that we have as English students at SRU. Also, I never really felt like I belonged at other schools, but here, I have made more connections and more memories in my short year a half than any other school.  Someone said at dinner last night that they feel included because “everyone is always happy in the English department and there is always something going on.” I think that sums it up. Basically, our English department is awesome and I am very glad to have this opportunity.

 

-Courtney

 

Confession: I forgot how much I loved English.

On the long drive home from Louisville, I had a realization that I would now like to confess to the wordpress world: I had forgotten how much I loved English. During the past year, I went from passionate and furious writing and reading, to motionless and meaningless completion of assignments. I wasn’t a writer — I was an English student.

I am so lucky to say that attending the convention in Louisville helped me to change that. I have re-discovered that passion I once had for great writing, for cathartic writing, even for bad writing! A man on one panel read his (award-winning) essay called “Do You Make Your Own Tortilla’s?” and I think that with the tear he helped me shed, so too did my boredom with English fall. In sharing his emotional, hilarious, and deeply personal story about his grandmother and their heritage, I remembered: oh. This is why I came to college to study this. It’s an emotion that I am having trouble putting into one word, but I suppose the one that seems to fit best right now is, healing. He healed me of my disinterest, and I would like to think that in sharing his piece, he was healed of some pain as well.

So thank you to that beautiful writer, to the old and new friends who share my (newfound) love for English and Writing, and for the incredibly supportive department at Slippery Rock University that I call home.

I am now going to read some Toni Morrison, and journal myself to sleep.

-Sara

Squad Goals

A final picture of the 2017 SRU Sigma Tau Delta Convention students. I can’t think of a group with which I would rather represent SRU. We definitely rocked the red and black but I think we’re all ready to change into some green and white.

-Victoria