As CERCA is barely a month away, it is important to look at other ways for students to show their academic skills outside of the classroom. Every year, the Madison Undergraduate Society for English (MUSE) hosts the undergraduate conference Literati. This conference offers students the chance to exchange ideas with peers, augment their own writing skills, and use the forum to view works through different perspectives. Literati invites students to a welcoming space in order to professionally engage with other undergraduates and improve their own public speaking and debating skills. The conference is open to all undergraduate students who wish to challenge themselves and get experience in the world of academia. For the last three years, the Literati conference has centered on a different theme. The theme of the 2015 conference was “Looking Glass;” the goal was to explore the ideas of identity and human perspective in narratives. The conference asked participants to explore how the perspective and identity of the narrator affect the reality of the narrative.
Jon Pumper, an Economics and English major at UWEC, got the chance to answer this question when he was asked to join this year’s Literati conference. The paper he submitted was entitled, “Grotesque Laughter in Helen Zenna Smith’s Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War“. He originally wrote it for English 459, a British literature course focusing on the grotesque. After receiving positive feedback on this paper from multiple professors at UWEC, Jon was encouraged to present his paper at Literati. Although this was the third conference he attended as an undergraduate researcher, it was the first by himself and through the English department. He said he was impressed by what he saw:
Many of my expectations of what an English conference might look like…were definitively met. What I didn’t quite expect was the impressively high-level of scholarship showcased by the undergraduates and the level of collegial respect the professionals in the audience gave the presenters.
These conferences are much more than an impressive addition to a resume. Conferences like Literati are extremely important as they encourage intellectual conversation on a professional level beyond the classroom. It shows that academia, especially literature-based academia, has a place beyond the classroom setting. Instead of a seeing academic knowledge as purely educational, the concept of conference allows students to use literary tools to touch on world issues that affect society on political, social and even environmental levels.
From Jon, it seems that his experience at Literati was definitely positive:
It really felt like what we had to say had a scholarly stake in the world; that our papers (and most were originally written to fulfill a class requirement) were touching on issues people wanted to hear about. For anyone who is looking to pursue graduate school or to be published someday, I think attending a conference such as Literati is an excellent and inspiring place to start.
More information about Literati and the details for the next conference can be found at http://www.museuw.com/