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June 15, 2016 at 9:33 am

English Doctoral Students and Professor Present at Conference

Photo Courtesy of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature Website

Courtesy of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature Website

Three English doctoral students and one faculty member presented their work on June 3 at the 46th Annual Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature conference at Michigan State University.

Third-year students Aaron Babcock and Kristin Distel co-chaired a panel titled “Gender, Androgyny, and the Inscrutable Body in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio,” while fourth-year student of rhetoric and composition, Samuel Stinson, served as their third panelist.

Aaron Babcock speaks at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature

Aaron Babcock speaks at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature

Babcock’s presentation focused on two short stories, “Hands” and “Sophistication,” from Anderson’s book.

“My essay explores perceptive femininity, in men and women alike, and how, through the recognition of androgynous possibility in others, it creates the potential for escape from the isolation and alienation that plague Winesburg’s populace,” Babcock notes.

Distel is originally from Clyde, Ohio, which serves as the basis for Anderson’s controversial book. She provided a Foucauldian reading of “The Strength of God” and “The Teacher,” specifically focusing on the body of Kate Swift. Distel sums up her essay by stating, “I argue that because Kate’s androgynous body is highly transgressive, she is closely monitored and observed by the people of Winesburg, most significantly through the panoptical space of the Reverend Curtis Hartman’s bell tower.” A series of photographs of Clyde, Ohio accompanied her presentation.

Kristin Distel presents her paper at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Kristin Distel presents her paper at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Stinson, whose paper was read in absentia, focused on what he terms “Midwestern silence” in Winesburg, Ohio. Stinson explains, “My paper examines ‘A Man of Ideas,’ focusing on masculinity, place, and the figure of Joe Welling. I argue that in this story, gender and the grotesque are both seen to be mutually constitutive. Welling’s storytelling, his verbal flood of words and ideas, represents the violation of Midwestern silence.”

All three graduate students were recipients of the Joseph Wydeven Student Scholarship, which helped to offset expenses associated with their conference attendance.

Dr. Marilyn Atlas presents her paper on Toni Morrison at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Dr. Marilyn Atlas presents her paper on Toni Morrison at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Dr. Marilyn Atlas, professor of English at OHIO, presented a paper titled “The Craters of Our Childhood Are Etched on Our Faces: Geography Lessons in Toni Morrison’s Eleventh Novel, God Help the Child.” Dr. Atlas has been a member of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature for forty years, and in 2004, she received the society’s MidAmerica Award “for distinguished contributions to the study of Midwestern literature.”

She has also held many positions in the organization, ranging from Vice President (1987-88), President (1988-89), and more recently, to the role of senior editor of the society’s publications, Dictionary of Midwestern Literature, Volumes I and II, among many other areas of service.

The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature awards several prizes to selected essays, as well as to creative works of fiction and poetry presented at the conference. The organization also considers all presentations for publication in its two journals, MidAmerica, published annually, and Midwestern Miscellany, published biannually.

The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature will hold its 47th annual meeting on June 1-3, 2017, at Michigan State University.

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