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Westminster College English Majors and Faculty Participated in International Convention

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Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Seven Westminster College English majors participated in the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention in March in Portland, Oregon.

Rebecca Beers presented "The Moonstone: Detecting a Narrator's Reliability." Beers examined the use of narrative in what appears to be a mystery novel, but is really a novel that cleverly discusses controversial subjects of the time. The research was advised by Dr. Deborah Mitchell, professor of English.

Beers, a senior, is a daughter of Edward and Cindy Beers of New Castle and a graduate of Laurel High School.

Robert Craven presented "Rhetoric ‘By Tongue of Brute': Milton's Animalistic Devil." Craven defended Paradise Lost as one of the most important and influential texts in Western literature and made the claim that it challenges the model of a great chain hierarchy. He focused his presentation on book nine of the epic, author John Milton's temptation scene. Craven's research was advised by Dr. Bethany Hicok, associate professor of English.

Craven, a senior, is a son of Randall Craven and Mary Cavanaugh, Ellwood City, and a graduate of Lincoln High School.

Lauren Gaynord presented "Mother, May I?: Reading the Struggle for Women's Right to Choose through Science Fiction." The presentation focuses on reading Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale through a feminist lens, with specific attention to the cultural context of the women's movement at the time of writing. Gaynord was advised by Hicok and Mitchell.

Gaynord, a senior, is a daughter of Sheri Gaynord of Valencia and a graduate of Mars Area High School.

Dana Luteran presented "Humans are Humans: Redefinition in The Left Hand of Darkness." Authors of science fiction often investigate aspects of contemporary humanity through the idea of a futuristic society. Novels that utilize a futuristic setting, like Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, often redefine normality in order to make a point about the readers' reality. Luteran explores the juxtaposition and relativity of the "normal" and "other" in the interactions between the novel's characters to show today's readers that through defining and redefining the familiar they can better understand what behaviors and emotions are inherent to all humans. She was advised by Mitchell.

Luteran, a senior, is a daughter of Stephen and Dawn Luteran of New Castle and a graduate of Neshannock High School.

Megan Power presented "Southern Family and Culture in A Streetcar Named Desire." Power's presentation was a psychoanalytic discussion about A Streetcar Named Desire and the way author Tennessee Williams dramatizes both the many tendencies and unconscious desires of Southern families to maintain tradition.  Power also examined the author's attitude toward the culture itself. She was advised by Hicok and Mitchell.

Power, a senior, is a daughter of Christopher and Lisa Power of Wampum and a graduate of Lincoln High School.

Stephanie Valasek presented "Oliver Twist: A Plot Device and Moral Compass." She studies the way in which Charles Dickens uses the novel's main character as commentary that reflected his opinion on societal issues, like child-labor, and how he uses the character as a moral compass for other characters in the novel. Hicok and Mitchell were the advisers.

Valasek, a senior, is a daughter of Mark and Kathleen Valasek and a graduate of Ford City High School.

Melissa Williams presented "Love, Resigned." The presentation was a collection of Williams' short poems written over the course of a failing relationship. Through the manipulation of cliché, imagery, and metaphor, it attempts to capture the binaries of emotion and the warped views that accompany a heart as it tries to resist the inevitable. Williams' goal for the presentation is that it would instill an appreciation for the cathartic and liberating possibilities of poetry, and foster a respect for all types of relationships.

Williams, a junior, is a daughter of Erin Williams and a graduate of Apollo-Ridge High School.

The Westminster students' attendance was supported by the English Department and 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.  Visit to learn more about the Drinko Center.

Contact Kristianne Kalata Vaccaro, assistant professor of English, at (724) 946-7519 or email for additional information.