2019 English Graduate Student Association Conference

The English Graduate Student Association's annual conference will be held on Friday, April 5 in Pray-Harrold. Programming features original creative work and research presentations conducted by graduate students from multiple programs in Eastern Michigan University's College of Arts and Sciences. Undergraduate students interested in pursuing graduate programs are highly encouraged to attend. We are also delighted to invite anyone in the campus community with an interest in research and scholarship in the humanities to attend this collaborative, professional conference. The event is free and open to the public.

Registration will open at 9 a.m, on the second floor of Pray-Harrold, and remain open throughout the event.

Schedule of Presentations

Session A: 9:30–10:45 a.m. Language and Culture - Room 201

  • Northern Cities Vowel Style Shifting: Evidence from Jewish Women in Metro Detroit

    Presenters: Rachael Crain, Mae Bower, Shelby Taylor, Janet Lapalla

    Recent research has shown that in many parts of the Inland North, aspects of the Northern Cities Shift (NCS) are reversing, while others progress. Nesbitt et al. (forthcoming) suggest that these changes may be socially motivated, citing some metalinguistic commentary by Inland Northerners about ‘harsh/hard As’ (Driscoll & Lape, 2015) and Savage’s (2017) finding that lowered DRESS was evaluated positively in a matched-guise study.

    In this updated analysis of both word-list and conversational data from interviews with 10 Jewish women born and raised in Metro Detroit, we present further evidence that for many younger speakers in the region, features of the NCS that clash with the supra-regional norms of the ‘third dialect’ (Clarke et al., 1995) are stigmatized. We find that younger women in our sample not only produce vowels closer to supra-regional norms than their older counterparts, they also show significantly greater style-shifting in their vowels from conversational speech to word-list speech. Additionally, the style-shift represented in word-list speech demonstrates a movement even further toward supra-regional norms. Insofar as word-list speech represents a speaker’s attempt at what they consider the prestige form (Trudgill, 1974), these style-shifts constitute evidence that the younger women view the supra-regional norms as more prestigious.

  • An Exploration of the Word “almost”: Where English Speakers’ Intuitions Lie

    Presenters: Mae Bower, Shelby Taylor

    Almost is a word we might use a lot, but never think very deeply about. Almost, like any other word, is not a word that can be used in just any grammatical position, and in fact is both a verbal modifier and nominal modifier. It has its own distinct meaning, but the question is: what is that meaning? What are the intuitions of English speakers regarding this word? These are the questions we are seeking to answer throughout our study. Our study attempts to test out various sentences which will allow us to compare real answers to other theories. Our research was conducted via a survey of 10 questions that was distributed to 612 participants. Each question tests the limits of the modifier almost by checking if almost can be used in various environments which would normally seem odd to a native English speaker. For instance, one of our environments tests if the modifier can be used to modify adjectives with no specified endpoint. This would be significant because if it can, it would indicate that this modifier can be used with adjectives that do not explicitly give an endpoint, but do have one in their nature.

Session A: 9:30–10:45 a.m. Feminisms, Women and the World - Room 204

  • The Non-Linear Structure of Michelle Cliff’s Free Enterprise

    Presenter: Jessica Tapley

    The non-linear structure of Free Enterprise by Michelle Cliff offers a complex reimagining of histories which have been erased and silenced. The way time is transcended in Cliff’s novel is disorienting to the reader, and this effect offers an illustration of the ways colonial power structures were disorienting and socially disabling to those who lived within colonized spaces. However, the dream-like quality of the novel’s narrative is crucial and functions to reimagine and reclaim histories which have been erased by colonial violence. In the novel, individuals who are forcibly quarantined at Carville Leper Colony because of physical disease are further socially disabled by racial stigmas and forcible separation from their families and pasts. However, the people at Carville Leper Colony also form new kinships and share stories with the others who live at the colony, which further shows how stories are necessary in order to heal from generational and personal trauma. Mary Ellen Pleasant also uses stigmas, which are placed upon her because she is a successful black business woman, as a performative method in order to pass through society without socially disabling obstacles.

  • How #MeToo became #WithYou in a Japan Where it is Still Unsafe to be a Survivor

    Presenter: Vee Kennedy

    This creative performance will feature components of my creative writing thesis for the Creative Writing MA Program, which negotiates cross-cultural interpretations of failure and success in two cultures, coming from my experiences working and teaching abroad.

    My creative inquiry revolves around American and Japanese ideas of failure, success, and the overall stakes of being a white foreign English teacher in Japan surrounded by, benefiting from, and contributing to a history of American colonialism whilst simultaneously suffering under the rigid expectations of an economically underperforming, exploitative Japanese company, violations of Japanese labor law, workplace sexism, complicated relationships with female authority figures, and the overall lack of mental health and sexual assault victim support services in Japan. I examine my experiences both in conjunction with famous, contemporary Japanese court cases and public issues, and also in a broader history of foreigners (particularly English Teachers) in Japan stemming back to the 1860s, and how historical issues and attitudes from then impact foreign language education in Japan even now.

    Examples include the infamous re-branding of #MeToo as #WithYou in Japan, where it is still unsafe to name yourself as a survivor in public, and the famous Densetsu Overwork Suicide Case which unfolded while I was working in Japan, in which a woman the same age as me working for the Densetsu Corporation committed suicide after perceived workplace failures. An investigation revealed that she had logged approximately 170 hours of overtime per month for half a year before her death—a feeling I know all too well, and saw myself echoed in.

    Ultimately, my work does not make any claim about "correctness" between cultures, but rather about misinterpretation, difference, and the blurry lines between standing up for one's self appropriately and and being inappropriately selfish.

  • “Glorified Glamour Girls:” Militarization of the Women Airforce Service Pilots

    Presenter: Lacey Opdycke

    Formed in 1943, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were a group of 1,074
    women pilots chosen and trained to be the first female pilots to fly planes for the war effort. However, unlike other women military units such as the Women’s Army Corps, the WASP were never granted military status despite their active role in the Army Air Forces. This research aims to discover the reasons why the WASP weren’t militarized in 1944, and why Congress disbanded the program that same year. It also examines what societal shifts occurred in the 30 years following the Second World War that allowed for the WASP to be granted veteran status in 1977. Analyzing sources such as newspaper articles, Congressional documents, oral histories, and letter collections, this paper illuminates the negative public opinion of the WASP in the 1940s that later shifts into shock that they were never granted any military status; along with an understanding of the gendered society the WASP were operating in at the time. In short, the Women Airforce Service Pilots were not militarized in 1944 not only because of their contradictory role as “women” and “pilots,” but also because of outside influences such as media perception and male pilots protecting their best interests.

Session B: 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Narratives and Non-Narratives - Room 201

  • To make a night of it…

    Presenter: Austin Bragdon

    “To make a night of it...” is an attempt to create the impression of a narrative structure to serve as a vehicle for affective movements, creating a continually delayed expectation of narrative resolution, and the impression of causality between disconnected narrative events. This is an aesthetic experiment that is not altogether uncommon, and can be found in such films as Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, and in many of Ted Berrigan’s short sonnets, but “To make a night of it...” is an attempt to sustain a similar aesthetic experience in the form of a long poem, a genre that has, as argued by Paul Jaussen, been neglected by many contemporary critics and poets. This experiment takes the form of narrative tropes used as vehicles for the absurd impression of narrative progression, without any genuine resolution, plot, or unified action.

  • Jibaro to the Bone: The Puerto Rican Folksong That Serves a Dual-Purpose

    Presenter: Rosalie Matta

    As a historical artifact, much can be learned from folktales. What once starts out as a children’s story about a monster slaying princess turns into a historical piece about female ancestors overcoming male oppression. What begins as merely a bedtime story for entertainment, becomes a personal guide on learning who you are. But different cultures use different ways of keeping the past alive. For the people of Puerto Rico, they use the folksong-- also known as Musica Jibara or “Jibaro Music”. Folksongs, like the folktale, are just as important in the circulation of teaching history. In my presentation, conducting a close contextual-analysis, I will discuss how the Puerto Rican folksong Jibaro to the Bone serves a dual-purpose. It is a song that not only contains historical significance but is a song to display pride in one’s culture.

Session B: 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. English & Education - Room 204

  • Disability Accommodations in First Year Writing for Inclusion

    Presenter: Vee Kennedy

    This talk discusses accommodation for disabled students in English Studies classrooms. The talk will entail the accommodations process, accommodations disabled students can receive, and their application/utility in the English Classroom (when applicable). In addition to discussing their limitations, the talk will propose alternative strategies for inclusion and access including but not limited to self-evaluation and reader response.

  • Different Dialects in a Writing Class Room: A Workshop for First Year Writing Instructors

    Presenter: Mae Bower and Shelby Taylor

    After our first semester as both linguistics students and First Year Writing Program (FYWP) Instructors, we think a useful thing that the FYWP can utilize is a professional development workshop focusing on varieties of English and the difference between deficit and difference. Through numerous professional development seminars and teaching workshops, we were educated on ways to make the classroom more accessible to those with disabilities and students who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. However, something we have not gone over are the differences in student’s speech and the connection between speech and writing. Specifically, students with dialects and writing tendencies that deviate from the traditional Standard English dialect that is propagated in Western academic culture. This leads us to the question of how to combat such attitudes. A solution we are proposing is to create a series of materials that can be used for a workshop or professional development. These materials will specifically be geared towards writing instructors, but could potentially be abstracted away from writing to be used by professionals in any field. We will discuss the reasons this workshop is needed, the causes behind linguistic discrimination, as well as describe the forms this workshop will take.

  • Working with English Language Learners in the Writing Center

    Presenter: Katie Dudek

    In 1966, Robert Kaplan wrote an article entitled “Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural Education.” Although the article suffers from sweeping generalizations and ethnocentricity, it did draw attention to the relationship between culture and writing. Over time, more in-depth, culturally specific studies have been conducted that examine the differences between the writing style of English Language Learners (ELL) and of Native English Speakers. Through a survey of existing studies and interviews with faculty members who work with ELL students at EMU, I identify some of the major stumbling blocks that ELL students face in the American college or university classroom. I also address some of the common misconceptions that are made regarding tutoring ELL students. Following this, I suggest various practical strategies for writing center tutors to use when working with ELL students. Above all, it is important for tutors to avoid making generalizations about ELL students and to remember that each student’s writing is unique and complex.

Break for Lunch - 12:15–1:30 p.m.

Plenary Address - 1:30 p.m. -Room 201

Session C: 2:15–3:30 p.m. Linguistic Analysis - Room 201

  • An Analysis of the syntax of Genitive of Negation (GenNeg) in Russian

    Presenter: Alina Korshunova

    This talk proposes an analysis of the syntax of Genitive of Negation (GenNeg) in Russian; i.e. where Genitive case is assigned to the object when a negative element is present, as in the sentence:

    On  ne    polučil   pis’mo/a.

    He NEG received letter-ACC/GEN

    He didn’t receive the/a letter.’

    GenNeg alternates with Acc case on the object in transitive constructions, and with Nom on the subject in unaccusative, existential, passive or impersonal constructions. My central research questions include: How does this case alternation work, and what does it tell us about the optionality of rules in the grammar? A recent theory of syntax, called the Minimalist Program is taken as a main approach to the phenomenon. The key concepts in the study are feature checking and the operations Move and Merge; these are the technical mechanisms that are responsible for assigning Case in a language. We argue that in order for a case to be checked, heads have to have a certain set of features which create a Case-checking domain. GenNeg is checked in [Spec, Neg] position, and it requires the feature complex [+Neg, +V]. The proposed hypothesis implies that Agreement operations and case-checking are completely separate, which can be an argument against the accepted model of feature checking. This research was conducted in order to understand the ambiguous nature and optionality of GenNeg in Russian. We consider the consequences of the analysis for cross-linguistic variation.

  • The Problem with Floating Quantifiers: An Updated Case Study & Analysis

    Presenter: Rachael Crain

    Floating quantifiers are quantifying determiners, including all and each, which adopt a specifier (i.e. a high, left) position within a noun phrase, or NP. Standard quantifiers have only one canonical position; thus, we have “Some dogs will fetch frisbees,” but it's ungrammatical to have “Dogs will some fetch frisbees”. Floating quantifiers function differently. These quantifiers can be floated to different positions (in a variety of constructions) while remaining grammatical; thus we get both "All dogs will fetch Frisbees" and "Dogs will all fetch frisbees." In this presentation I will provide evidence for how the demands of deep syntactic structure determine where these quantifiers can float. I will examine a wide range of diverse constructions as I explore what affects this float. The concluding analysis considers such factors as VP, or verb phrase, fronting and elision to create a more comprehensive understanding of why floating quantifiers follow the observed patterns of grammaticality. We then consider the relevance of our findings for current syntactic theory.

Session C: 2:15–3:30 p.m. Literature and Morality - Room 204

  • Snicket’s Treatment and Condemnation of Differently Bodied Characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events

    Presenter: Josiah Pankiewicz

    Daniel Handler’s (pen name: Lemony Snicket) incredibly popular A Series of Unfortunate Events centers around three charming orphans continually on the run from their ugly and unhygienic distant relative, Count Olaf. The series asks much of its young readers, as the books completely suspend the usual didactic morality of children’s literature and replace it with a morality where aesthetic beauty and knowledge equate to goodness. While Snicket claims that only intentions and actions have an impact on a person’s morality, the ways in which beautiful and ugly people operate in his books seem to directly contradict him. While not every villain in this series is ugly, every ugly character through all thirteen books is a villain. Moreover, Mr. Snicket’s positioning of non-normative bodies into the category of “ugly” further problematizes the books. Characters who do not submit to the normative gender binary, are not able-bodied, or do not meet the beauty standards of his world are bound to be villainous and prey on innocent, beautiful children. This conflation of ugliness and evil can be read as a condemnation of any person who the texts, or readers, see as ugly, or “other.” Therefore, while the books attempt to create a morality based on knowledge and beauty, their superficial connections between ugliness and immorality undermine this attempt.

  • Instruction or Delight?  Scholarly Approaches to ‘Sense’ in Edward Lear’s and Lewis Carroll’s Nonsense Poetry

    Presenter: Kristi Gatchel

    “From instruction to delight” is perhaps the most ubiquitous phrase associated with the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Notable strides away from texts steeped in instructions, morals and religious overtones towards those primarily intended to entertain became hallmark of the approximate seventy-year span from the 1850s to the early 1920s. Canonical texts from the period, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan, have yielded a rich depth of children’s literature scholarship, yet study related to Golden Age nonsense poetry has been notably limited within the field. Mindful of this gap, I use case studies of four scholarly essays on Golden Age nonsense poetry as touchstones to scrutinize how the concept of “instruction to delight” is conceptualized differently by scholars working inside versus those working outside the field of Children’s Literature. I suggest that not only is there an observable difference in both the focus and methodology employed by scholars inside and outside the field, but that this difference has historically aided in establishing the field of Children’s Literature, and currently delimits its edges.

  • The Politics of Dante’s Inferno

    Presenter: Katie Dudek

    In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, there were a series of struggles for power in the city of Florence. The first struggle was between the Ghibellines, the noble party, and the Guelfs, the patrician party. After the Guelfs gained control and effectively removed the opposing party, the Guelfs split into two factions: the Black Guelfs and the White Guelfs. Dante Alighieri, a Florentine poet and member of the White Guelfs, was exiled from Tuscany when the Black Guelfs gained the upper hand in 1301. He never returned to Florence. In 1308 he began to pen his most famous work: The Divine Comedy. This narrative poem was not only a great work of literature but was also a commentary on the issues and politics of the time. Inferno, the first part of The Divine Comedy, offered a particularly scathing view of Dante’s world. In this first part, the reader meets the Pilgrim, who must journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and Virgil, his guide through Hell. This paper will examine why Dante places certain religious and political figures in various circles of Hell and what this indicates about the politics and issues of thirteenth and fourteenth Italy.

Session D: 3:45–5 p.m. Rhetoric, Writing and Analysis - Room 201 

  • A Rhetorical Analysis of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

    Presenter: Vee Kennedy

    This presentation will entail a rhetorical analysis of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the nightly fireworks show at Walt Disney World's EPCOT that has run from October 1999 to present and is scheduled to retire in June. In addition to examining the three-act presentation of the fireworks show regarding the scientific creation of Earth, global cultures and language, the presentation will explore the rhetoricity of Walt Disney's original EPCOT plan and the extant edition of the World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT today.

  • Guidance in the Kitchen: Cooking Documents as Technical Writing

    Presenter: Mona Beydoun

    This research project was a genre analysis of cooking documents through the lens of technical and professional writing. Cooking documents are not universally accepted as a form of technical writing, opening the door for a systematic analysis of different genres within the field of cooking. This analysis traces the rhetorical tendencies within eight cooking genres, noting the alignment with the practices and considerations of technical writers. As my analysis shows, the world of cooking and cooking documents is becoming multimodal, making use of words, pictures, videos, tips, comments sections, and links to relevant recipes. This is a major change from the first cooking document, a cookbook with words and pictures. The sheer amount of production that can go into producing a single recipe for a well-funded cooking website is surprising. Writers work with chefs, photographers, videographers, editors, and copy editors. The level of involvement required from the team demands the training technical writers undergo.

    This analysis ties cooking documentation to the field of technical writing, making the case that technical writers should put more energy into the field of cooking, researching best-practices. The implications of this project suggest that the field of technical writing is far more ingrained in the life of the average person than previously acknowledged. This perspective offers technical writers the opportunity to produce high-quality communications in more fields, making professional workspaces just one space in which they can work.

Session D: 3:45–5 p.m. Writing and the Self - Room 204

  • XXXYZ

    Presenter: Christina Sears-Etters

    In this Creative Research Project XXXYZ, Cristina-Marie Sears, poet/wordsmith/performance artist, interrogates the body as a vessel spoken word and the lived body. This project centers upon poetic performance, of three original poems, XXX, and integrates performative elements typically considered as belonging to the discipline of performance art. XXX will be performed, in real time, and explores betrayal as a theme. Specific visual performance landscapes will be offered to those in attendance. Rather than identifying attendees as “audience” or “spectator,” guests are invited to witness XXXYZ as active participants. Guests are invite to move freely during the duration of the project, contribute noises and movement using various props, and write down responses.

    Sears has become increasingly interested in the voice as a time-stamped element of identity, and a mutable presence in meaning-making. XXX is a translational triptych of a specific event, a botched wedding, and the props correlate with the topic.

  • Rethinking Self in Fiction: Erving Goffman’s Work as Literary Analysis

    Presenter: Mac McDonough

    The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) by Erving Goffman is a highly respected analysis of the way identity is managed in societal interactions. As a sociological text its place in theoretical discourse has long since been established. I suggest that this text can be used as a tool in literary analysis, particularly the analysis of characters in fiction. The novels Invitation to a Beheading (1936) by Vladimir Nabokov and The Trial (1925) read in the light of Goffman’s work illuminate the construction of laws, punishment, and the criminal justice system. Goffman’s work on the self brings out the structure of social reality as being a dialectic of performance, audience, and identity management. Using the vocabulary established by Goffman, I will analyze the two texts and demonstrate that sociology’s canon can be used by literary studies to further the project of understanding the cultural creations that we manifest in our fiction.

Please spread the word to classmates, friends and families! If you have any questions about the event, please email EGSA us at EGSA.EasternMichigan@gmail.com.