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Literary Studies Capstone Symposium

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Each semester, students enrolled in ENGL480 Literary Studies Seminar hold a symposium to share the best of their work. Students, faculty, family, and friends are invited to support our senior English majors as they present the capstone projects of their English degree.


Fall 2018: Into the Archives

Literary Studies Seminar students have teamed up with Professor Laura Helton and the Library's Special Collections and Center for Digital Collections to study and exhibit the Langston Hughes Ephemera Collection. Join us on Wednesday, December 5th, 12:00-1:00, as they present their work in the "Scholar in the Library" presentation at Morris Library, Class of 1941 Lecture Room.

Course Description:

Langston Hughes was a prolific producer of literature from the 1920s to 1960s, writing more than three dozen books, collections, and librettos during his lifetime.  He was also among the most generous interlocutors of the twentieth-century American cultural scene, maintaining a dizzying pace of correspondence with writers, readers, musicians, artists, journalists, and teachers.  And he is noted for his commitment to building a mass readership for his work through an unceasing circuit of performances.  Hughes was on the road for four decades, reading his poetry to audiences in storefronts and schools, at gospel concerts and political rallies.

As a result of Hughes’ prolific circulation through travel and text, he is now a staple subject of American archives as well.  There are eponymous Hughes collections in dozens of libraries, including Emory University, the Huntington Library, the Cleveland Public Library, the University of Kansas, the Chicago Public Library, Lincoln University, the New York Public Library, and the University of Delaware.  But few of these are ever cited by scholars, who turn almost exclusively to the collection of his manuscripts at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.  To be sure, Yale’s collection is the largest and most “literary”; many of the other Hughes collections are small—perhaps a single manuscript donated by Hughes to one of his many librarian friends. 

But what happens to our sense of Hughes if we follow the threads of his fragmented but ubiquitous archival subjectivity?  Researching Hughes through local repositories shifts our focus away from the New York-based literary pantheon documented at Yale, and points instead to the broader field of African American print culture as it unfolded in local bookstores, schools, churches, music halls, and political spaces.  Those spaces, in turn, raise important questions about audience and ephemerality—the ephemerality of Hughes’ performances and of the cheap paper programs and broadsides on which they were advertised. In this capstone experience, students have partnered with Morris Library to combine literary studies with skills in archival research, digital mapping, and exhibition design.  They have explored the work of Langston Hughes and his contemporaries of the 1920s through 1960s by reading poetry, plays, and fiction while also digging into collections of original letters, manuscripts, and ephemera held in UD’s Special Collections.  They also visited museums and collections in Philadelphia and Wilmington, supported by funds from the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center.  At the end of the semester, the class worked as a team to mount a pop-up exhibit about Langston Hughes’s poetry, plays, and performances.

Spring 2016: The Great War and Memory

Aerial view of Newark, Delaware in 1925, shortly after Memorial Library opened. Photo courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

Literary Studies Seminar students in Spring 2016 are studying "The Great War and Memory" with Professor Bernard McKenna. Please join us Tuesday, May 10 at 3:30pm in 127 Memorial Hall as the students present their capstone projects in the Senior Research Symposium.

Course Description

In "The Great War and Memory," we will focus on archival research to learn the stories and to re-tell the stories of those who served in the First World War. We will read selections from the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, focusing on the composition history of poems, on correspondence, and on historical context. As a semester project, students will tell the stories of the people in the University's Book of the Dead, housed in Memorial Hall. Through archival research, students will recover the biographies, faces, and personal lives of the individuals behind the names.

In "The Great War and Memory," we will focus on archival research to learn the stories and to re-tell the stories of those who served in the First World War. We will read selections from the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, focusing on the composition history of poems, on correspondence, and on historical context. As a semester project, students will tell the stories of the people in the University's Book of the Dead, housed in Memorial Hall. Through archival research, students will recover the biographies, faces, and personal lives of the individuals behind the names.

Fall 2015: Magic and Myth and Mystery (Oh My!)

The Magic and Myth and Mystery (Oh My!) Senior Research Symposium was held December 9 featuring capstone projects selected by students in ENGL480 "Fantasy from Tolkien to Rowling" with Professor Siobhan Carroll.

Presenters included

Matthew Camacho "Social Mobility and Surnames in A Song of Ice and Fire"

Garrett Carvajal "Pulverizing the Patriarchy: Suppression and Expression of Women's Power in Fantasy"

Sarah Craster "Luna, Lupin, and the "Loopy": Neurodiversity in Harry Potter"

Kat Ford "Liminal Characters in Fiction: "Black and White" Morality Versus the Moral Grey Area"

Kerri Tobin "The Female Hero in Fantasy"

Spring 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Historical Fiction, Theatrical Villains, and Hussies" Senior Symposium was held May 13 featuring capstone projects selected by students in ENGL480-010 "Bad Women and Shameless Women" with Professor Miranda Wilson and ENGL480-011 "The Contemporary Historical Novel" with Professor Ed Larkin.

Stimulate your senses and broaden your mind with food and discussion of provocative historical fiction alongside scandalous theatrical productions featuring bad men and shameless women. Those brave enough to handle these incendiary topics should leave their inhibitions at the door!

Presenters included

Ethan Clark"I Cant Even: The Literary Origins of Thieves' Cant"

Emerson Marine "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor: On Quacks, Theater, and the Making of Authority in the Renaissance"

Nick Moye "'Let Not Women's Weapons Stain My Man's Cheeks' - A Study of Male Hysteria in Renaissance Drama"

Allison Shaw "The Tudor Myth and the Contemporary Historical Novel"

Conor Small "Self-Aware Narrative Voices of In the Skin of a Lion and Bring up the Bodies: 'Do not forget us'"

Aaron Weinstock "Illuminating Ondattje's 'darkened' immigrant"

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Literary Studies Capstone Symposium
  • Department of English
  • 203 Memorial Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
  • Phone: 302-831-2361
  • english@udel.edu