English Senior Symposium highlights intellectual pursuits at PSWS

Dr. Kelley Wagers, at left, introduces panelists at this year's English Senior Symposium

Kelley Wagers, associate professor of English and coordinator of the English Senior Symposium, introduces the student panelists at this year's event.

Credit: Kelly Frey

DUNMORE, Pa. — Each year Penn State Worthington Scranton’s English Department hosts its annual English Senior Symposium, a public mini-conference for its advanced students to share their literary research projects. Students are organized into two panels and give brief (about 10 minutes) academic conference-style versions of their research essays after which, the floor opens for comments and questions.

The event is held over the course of two days each spring, and is attended by students, faculty and staff. This year, the symposium took place on Tuesday, April 25 and Thursday, April 27.

The first day kicked off with the theme “Monsters in the Making.” Ken Czyzyk’s presentation, “The God Complex,” compared Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the Bible.

Teddy Carpenter delved into the moral implications of technology and its impacts with regard to its lack of personal touch with his project, “Technological Creations of Justice in Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony.’”

Then Bryanna Burnside spoke on, “Juxtaposing ‘Feminist’ Characters: Emma Bovary and Edna Pontellier,” two women who opened up to their sexuality in different ways and suffered a great deal of challenges from their respective societies.

Lastly, Brandon Valentin presented “Just Play Your Part,” a discussion that broke character roles down to show the development that these characters can carry through the representation of Madame Emma Bovary and “Twilight: Los Angeles.“

Kelley Wagers, associate professor of English and coordinator of the event, called it “an act of generosity" offered by students "willing to openly share their thoughts on issues and texts they care about."

She said the symposium "is a contribution to the intellectual life of the campus.” It inspires new students and shows the campus the potential of students of English, she added.

The second day of the symposium was an entirely different experience compared to the one on Tuesday. On Thursday, a new group of students discussed the theme of “Critical Reflections” focusing on the “monsters” of society.

Dakota Manns spoke first very eloquently on “The Enduring Relevance of Self-Reflection,” comparing Shelley’s “Frankenstein” with the characters and their own struggles.

Eric Zelinski created an eye-opening conversation with his topic, “Condemning the Created: Monstrosity in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Rebecca,'” which concluded that one’s opinion of self can have a great deal of influence on how a person is seen in society.

Then, Joelle Sweeney conquered the topic of “Materialistic Monsters: Consumerism in ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Lolita'" for her presentation.

The symposium ended with a series of active discussions where faculty, staff and even alumni who came to the symposium participated in their own takes on these topics.

This fourth annual symposium was an opportunity for students to share their research on the required readings in class. The research allowed them to give an in-depth perspective on topics of their interest, based on what they learned in class; the critical thinking process of these students’ theories then had to be proven or disproven within their essays and supported during the open discussion forum.

In the end, the students provided the audience with new perspectives on some great works of literature.