Words prove mightier than the sword at the English Symposium

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Susan Howe, keynote speaker for the English Symposium, spoke to BYU students about thinking for themselves and breaking from the traditions in writing in her lecture entitled "Shaping the Post-Postmodern Moment." Photo by Kristina Tieken.
Susan Howe, keynote speaker for the English Symposium, spoke to BYU students about thinking for themselves and breaking from the traditions in writing in her lecture entitled “Shaping the Post-Postmodern Moment.” (Photo by Kristina Tieken)

BYU students demonstrated the power of their words at the English Symposium in the Joseph F. Smith Building March 28.

The English department sponsored the symposium, which allows students to submit paper proposals and enhance presentation professionalism. Department faculty reads the papers and chooses which students will present at the symposium. Professors who are published writers, authors and critics mentor students as they develop presentation skills.

Sirpa Grierson, English Symposium coordinator and faculty adviser, said students are able to leave the symposium with a better idea of what they can do with their English degrees, whether they want to publish or write. Grierson’s passion to organize this event every year is inspired by the students’ love and appreciation for it.

“I think the biggest benefit of doing this for the students is actually being involved in their discipline rather than just writing a paper for their class and their teacher,” Grierson said. “They are presenting it to peers, and peers get involved by asking questions.”

Students based presentations on papers they had worked on for various classes. The symposium’s keynote speaker concluded the day of 43 panels and 130 presentations.

Susan Howe, keynote speaker and associate professor in the English department, gave a speech entitled, “Shaping the Post-Postmodern Moment.” Howe expressed her admiration, respect and love for the students and faculty who participated in the day’s activities.

“I think this is one of the most wonderful events that we have,” Howe said. “There’s nothing that makes me quite so proud and happy as to see the achievements of you students, and I am honored to be with you.”

Howe shared many poems and examples of post-postmodernism work. She said she hopes students will think more thoroughly about scholarship, writing and how they center things they value in their lives, especially in the gospel, after today’s lecture.

“After today, I hope people are empowered to think for themselves about the cultural ideas that come to form,” Howe said.

Howe wants students to be confident in their writing and to try new things. She specialized the topic she spoke on by trying to make it apply to the audience personally. Her point was to think outside the box in one’s own and personal imaginative literature.

“Champion what you value in your work,” Howe said.

Grierson said the symposium is also a good opportunity to assess the faculty. The work the students produce is a good indication of how the faculty members are teaching.

The symposium itself contained presentations about a variety of topics including fairy tales, folklore, digital media and turning literature into film and much more. One panel even discussed using Harry Potter to improve teachings techniques. Creative writing was a new addition to the symposium this year, according to Grierson.

Jared Pence, an English graduate student who presented in the conference, said the symposium is a chance for BYU students to participate in and attend a conference.

“Conferences are an important way for English majors to professionalize, especially if they want to become academics in English, and the conferences are a really important part of that,” Pence said.

The conference offers both growing opportunities for students and encouragement for the public to engage in student presentations. The English department encourages anyone who is interested to get involved next year.

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