The WKU Department of English will host the 2020 Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture on Friday, November 13. The event is an annual opportunity for students to share their analytical work written in WKU English classes. Students, faculty, and participants’ friends and family are encouraged to attend. This year’s conference will be hosted on Zoom.
“We started hosting the Undergraduate Conference in 2001 to celebrate the excellent academic work of WKU English students,” explained Dr. Ted Hovet, organizer of the event. “The conference allows English students to share their writing outside of the classroom and the English Department to highlight what we do to a larger community.”
Before each conference, all undergraduate students can submit 4-6-page analytical papers written in WKU English classes during the year leading up to the conference. The submissions are reviewed by the graduate students in the WKU English MA and MFA programs. The graduate students select participants with essays addressing and exploring critical issues in literature, language, and culture. The participants are grouped based on essay topics into panels, moderated by the graduate students. This year, there are twelve participants, three in each panel.
Participants of the Undergraduate Conference present a wide array of topics every year. Dr. Hovet explained, “There are presentations on works of literature or culture that have been around for millennia and on ones that are brand new. Students present essays on authors and topics from around the globe using a wide variety of critical lenses, making the conference a great way to show the range and depth of the intellectual engagement of English students.”
One example of the diversity of content was demonstrated by the 2019 Best in Conference fourth place winner Rook Jones in their experimental piece written in Dr. Rigby’s Creative Nonfiction course. “I wrote a personal letter to Sigmund Freud about what it means to do psychoanalytical work as an English major,” said Jones. Through a “tongue-in-cheek introduction” and sarcastic quips, their passionate argument elicited laughter from the audience. Jones opinionated, “A good analysis is an accessible one that everyone can comprehend, and laughter is one of those ways an audience comprehends their understanding.” Jones will participate in the 2020 Undergraduate Conference with a more traditional, but still accessible, essay.
One of the goals of the Undergraduate Conference is to introduce students to the academic world in a familiar environment with a smaller audience. Jones appreciated this quality of the event. They added, “The Undergraduate Conference also offers the insulating experience of presenting with others in a panel. This and the size of the event put less pressure on individual presenters, which made the conference a more enjoyable experience for me as someone with both oral communication difficulties and anxiety.”
The Undergraduate Conference also serves to inspire audience members. “The conference gives a snapshot of the different ways we write about academic topics in English and may inspire people to consider classes in areas they are less familiar with,” Dr. Hovet said.
On listening to the other participants, Jones commented, “It’s very rare for me to have a chance to learn more about the way my peers analyze texts on a deeper level (there are limitations to class discussion, after all). Despite the fact that at the Undergraduate Conference one is only exposed to a small sliver of papers submitted, it still provides an eye-opening look into the ways analytical thinking evolves with our generation.”
The 2020 Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture will take place on Friday, November 13 from 1:00-3:40 p.m. at https://wku.zoom.us/j/91606214009.