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English Majors Presented at Creative Writing Conference

Posted on Thursday, March 1, 2012

Five Westminster College senior English majors presented papers at the Susquehanna University Undergraduate Research and Creative Writing Conference Feb. 19-20.

Marissa Burdett presented "The Modern Austen: How Contemporary Audiences Still Connect with Jane Austen's Texts as Demonstrated Through Adaptation," a segment of her capstone paper that illustrated how Austen connects to the 21st-century woman.  According to Burdett's paper, the modern woman finds solace in Austen's simple 19th-century world where relationships were clearly defined, social standards were strictly followed, and there was a deep reverence for privacy, something that is nearly impossible in today's world of Facebook and Twitter.  The paper also covered the modern woman's need for both "freedom and fairytales:" self-sufficiency and reliance on others.

"The conference was an absolutely wonderful experience," Burdett said.  "I really enjoyed hearing the other student presenters as well as the keynote speaker and creative non-fiction writer Joy Castro.  It was a unique experience to be able to immerse myself in my major and hear from a body of strong writers and speakers."

Burdett is a daughter of Jerry and Laura Burdett of Gibsonia and a graduate of Hampton High School.

Samantha Killmeyer presented "Music and Poetry: Artistic Form and Function," a portion of her capstone project on the early career of poet Denise Levertov.  Killmeyer used a variety of essays, interviews, and letters to examine a part of Levertov's life often overlooked by critics.  The presentation outlined some of Levertov's poetic theory and included an explication of "Matins," a poem from the Jacob's Ladder collection.

Killmeyer's capstone is also her Honors project and was advised by Dr. Joel Postema, associate professor of Spanish, and Dr. David Swerdlow, professor of English.

"The conference was a wonderful experience and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend," Killmeyer said.  "The keynote speakers exceeded my expectations, especially Joy Castro, who closed the conference with a reading." 

"Because I am student teaching, the conference was a great opportunity to spend time with friends and fellow English majors," Killmeyer added.  "Since all of us who attended are seniors and have had so many classes together, including capstone, it was nice to spend time with them and attend their presentations."

Killmeyer is a daughter of Steven and Diane Killmeyer of Medina, Ohio, and a graduate of Highland High School.

Kara Knickerbocker presented "The Art of Baptizing," an original poetry collection inspired by her capstone project.  The poems comprise the creative section of the capstone and deal with a more modern female speaker struggling to come to terms with salvations and sins.  The poems explore restrictions and setbacks in family and intimate relationships, individual growth, and societal expectations.

Knickerbocker, who was a creative writing major at Susquehanna her freshman year, participated in the conference then but had not returned to the school or the conference since.  "It was an incredibly emotional experience for me," she said.  "It was amazing to revisit the campus and see the faces of students and professors I knew."

""I could not have had a more rewarding experience," Knickerbocker added.  "I love meeting other students who share my passion for writing and literature.  We were able to listen, learn, and discuss both narrative elements and various creative components as we presented our research and creative work alongside students from so many different colleges and universities."

Knickerbocker is a daughter of Dan and Lu Ann Knickerbocker of Conneautville and a graduate of Saegertown High School.

Ashley Kress presented "The Real Life of a Disney Princess," the creative section of her capstone project.  The piece attempts to incorporate morals and themes of the Disney princesses into the life of Cora, a college student struggling to find satisfaction in her life through sometimes questionable choices.  Through hard work, integrity, and an amazing internship opportunity, she finds herself and true love.

"It was great sharing my work with an audience outside my capstone class," Kress said.  "A lot of people expressed interest in my work, which was really rewarding since the piece became such a large portion of my life.  I felt really prepared by Westminster to present my work.  I enjoyed traveling to another campus, bonding with my fellow English majors, and learning about projects done at other schools."

Kress is a daughter of Mary Michael and Jeffrey Kress, both of Pittsburgh, and a graduate of Northgate High School.

Rose Selby presented "Ideological Effects on Identity in Huck Finn and Light in August," her capstone project.  The paper examines the influence of ideology on the characters Huck Finn, from Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Christmas, from Faulkner's Light in August.  The comparative piece showed how they each suffer identity crises as a result of their culture's ideological beliefs.

"The conference was a wonderful experience," Selby said.  "Hearing about students' literature research from other colleges was a very valuable learning experience.  Joy Castro, the keynote speaker, was very interesting and awe-inspiring."

Selby is a daughter of Robert and Patricia Selby of Darlington and a graduate of Beaver Falls High School.

Addison Domske's capstone work, "‘The Gospel According to…the Secular': Measuring Religiosity in Secular Television," was also accepted for presentation but she was unable to attend the conference.

Domske is a daughter of Ronee Christy of Oil City and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School.

Dr. Ross Wastvedt and Dr. Andrew Ade, Westminster associate professors of English, were faculty advisers for the capstone projects.

Contact Wastvedt at (724) 946-7352 or email for additional information about the projects or the conference. 

The students received travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences.  Click here for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

(L-r) Samantha Killmeyer, Kara Knickerbocker, Marissa Burdett, Rose Selby, Ashley Kress