On February 1, the Department of English and Film Studies held our second annual English Undergraduate Symposium. Following on the heels of last year’s highly-successful event, this year’s symposium, entitled “Words in the World,” organized by Maria DiCenzo and Jenny Kerber, took on the challenge of addressing the many ways in which our discipline intervenes in larger social, political and cultural issues. Our partner in this effort, the English Students’ Society, was instrumental in obtaining matching funding for the event via the Arts Undergraduate Society Grant, making for an ideal partnership between students and faculty, both of which participated in the actual panels of the symposium as well. The attendance and participation from Laurier Brantford English students and faculty further brought together the various strands of English teaching and learning across Laurier’s multiple campuses.
The panels were a mix of creative writing and scholarship, exploring (in order) careers in English, life writing and digital media, pop culture and gender and sexuality, literature and sports, creative writing, and current contentious issues.
The symposium was rounded out by this year’s Edna Staebler Writer in Residence, Gary Barwin, who spoke to us over lunch about the strands of influence and technique and collaborations involved in his creative work.
Last but not least, we had the awarding of the Chris Heard Memorial Prize in creative writing to Yelibert Cruz Roo, for her short story, “This Kingdom has No Heroes,” about barriers to immigration and their effects on families and communities.
As a whole, the symposium reflected the many intersections between the scholarly and the creative, from found poems taken from interviews with famous sports figures, to works around life writing and personal expression on social media, to the importance of research in crafting historical narratives, to the ways in which skills attained in the classroom can foster careers in areas as wide-ranging as publishing, advertising and the insurance. The symposium demonstrated the many ways in which the study of English enables flexible and adaptive approaches to real-world issues.
All of the panels were followed by lively question and answer sessions in which students and visitors discussed the many ways in which our discipline engages the “literary” in its widest possible context.
Here’s to hoping for a repeat of this successful event next year.
By: Tamas Dobozy, Chair of English and Film Studies