“American Conflicts” conference

Patrick Sullivan, Contributor

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Every day, students go into classrooms and learn from presentations that their professors have to give. At the American Studies Conference that took place in the Oakland Center last Wednesday, students were given the opportunity to be on the other side of this interaction.

The conference,titled ‘American Conflicts’, focused on a variety of topics all falling into the topic of American culture, ranging from literature to motion pictures. A variety of student presenters gave talks around academic papers they had written and short stories or poetry that they had wrote.

This year’s main topic for the conference was ‘American Conflicts’, which entails two different perspectives in American culture disagreeing with each other. Previous topics include ‘American Identities’, ‘American Borders’, and ‘American Perspectives’.

Jenna Russell, an English major and a member of the American Studies club, presented for the for the first time at this year’s conference. Her paper was on the American idea of the western frontier, and female Native American author Zitkala-Sa.

“It was a fun challenge to make a paper that was interesting, scholarly, and still easily understood by everyone in the audience,” said Russell. “Not just people with English degrees.”

17 people wrote papers for the conference, with topics such as “The MPAA and the Catholic Church” and “What Came First: The Hooker or the Horse? On Commodification, Companionship, and Jurisdiction in the Western”.

Since 2012, the American Studies club has hosted this conference, with this year marking the 6th year anniversary. This year, the conference lasted eight hours, going from 9am to 5pm in the Oakland Center Gold Rooms.

“The conference started as an opportunity for students to take the work that they were doing in the classroom and share it with other students,” said Christian O’Connor, the president of the American Studies club.

Any student can submit a paper for the conference, with a call for papers going out in early January. From there, the American Studies club picks which papers will be featured, with the English department helping promote and advertise the conference itself.

“It gives people more ownership on the work they are creating in their classes, and additional drive to work on it,” said O’ Connor, regarding what students gain out of the conference.

The advertisements for the American Studies Conference had Mark Twain fighting Samuel Clemens. They depict Twain standing in a boxing stance ready to fight himself in a mirror across from him.

“Whenever you have an American Studies conference, eventually someone is going to talk about Mark Twain,” said Jenna Russell. “It’s inevitable.”

The American Studies club is a small group on campus that promotes the study and exploration of American culture. If you are interested in the American Studies club, their next meeting is on Tuesday, April 17th at 11am in the Oakland Center near Au Bon Pain.