“Passing”: GWU’s Annual English Graduate Symposium

Director of Graduate Studies Tara Wallace responds to
(L to R) Farisa Khalid, Brian Dumm, Emily Lathrop
On March 1st, 2019, the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) hosted their annual symposium, where graduate students from GWU and other consortium schools gather to share their research with one another in a supportive and rigorous atmosphere. The theme this year was “Passing: (Im)mobility and Identity in Literary Spaces,” which brought together many theoretical fields, like gender, race, disability, and performance. The papers given featured film, history, and literature across time periods, focusing on a myriad of texts from Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You to the life of Mata Hari to Dan Brown’s Inferno. Our keynote speaker, Patricia Akhimie (Rutgers University-Newark), gave a fascinating preview of her latest book topic, early modern women’s travel. Her focus on how and why women in the early modern period moved, often with great difficulty, across national boundaries and within their own societies fit beautifully into our theme of “passage.” The frequent struggle of her subjects was also reflected in her own movement through the limited archive that survives to document these issues. With speakers ranging from first year Masters students to third year PhD candidates, the symposium offered a special occasion to come together and enjoy the diverse and engaging topics of interest within our community.
An exciting event at the EGSA symposium this year was the first-ever undergraduate panel, which featured three English majors in their third year of study at GWU. They presented papers that had formerly been written for upper level literature classes on medieval and early modern literature.
Julia Asami Smith,
part of our undergraduate panel.
One of them had actually adapted her paper from a project done during her semester abroad at the University of Oxford. There were two main reasons for this addition to the symposium schedule: the opportunity to showcase the rich and exciting work done by our majors, as well as the chance to give them an inviting space to share their ideas and get feedback. This type of experience is not common to most undergraduate programs, and judging from the positive reaction from the audience, our undergraduate speakers certainly held their own.
The most rewarding part of organizing the symposium schedule, notes Emily MacLeod, ESRA vice president of academic enrichment, is sorting the papers into panels and creating the individual panel themes after receiving submissions on a wide array of topics. Reflecting on his experience as a panel participant, first year PhD student Brian Dumm writes, “I particularly enjoyed how the panels mixed and matched centuries, genres, and scholarly domains around a shared, though not initially obvious, connection point.”
Emily Lathrop, EGSA co-president, remarks, “The work presented by both undergraduate and graduate students at the symposium was both pressing and impressive and helped foster thought-provoking conversations throughout the day.”

Keynote Speaker Patricia Akhimie.

EGSA looks forward each year to our symposium, and we thank everyone who attended for making this year’s event such a smashing success!

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