2023 Capstone Conferences: English

Designed by Laura Fraser, the image for the 2023 English 401 conference was inspired in its stance and form by the Greek statue, Nike of Samothrace (also known as “Winged Victory”). Nike, the goddess of victory, emerges from books as they fly around her. She holds a laurel in her right hand and a quill in her left as she steps forward. The conference title emerges from the StMU symbol and underneath is the department’s Capstone title.

From April 17 -18, we celebrated academic excellence at StMU by showcasing the final projects and presentations prepared by our fourth-year students during our 2023 Capstone Conferences. We’re excited to share the results of the hard work of our English students.

Talia Sargent – Promoting Knowledge Versus Enforcing Ignorance: The Example of The Glass Castle

Talia Sargent is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in English. As a songwriter, many of her songs and performances support open discussions of mental health. Talia became interested in teaching trauma narratives in the classroom after discovering that her favourite book,  Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, was banned in schools throughout the United States. Talia’s goal after graduation is to continue teaching youth (she already coaches Figure Skating), aiming to become a High School English teacher. Her presentation, “Promoting Knowledge Versus Enforcing Ignorance,” engages scholarly conversations about school curriculum censorship and conceptions of adolescence.

Madisson McNary – Coming of Age; Unpacking Escapism, Trauma, and Identity

Madisson will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Psychology. Before she returns to school to take her Bachelor of Education and pursue a career as a teacher, she plans to work in the educational field as a one-on-one instructor, helping students who have reading and writing disabilities. As a youth leader at her church, Madisson is very passionate about equipping the next generation with the right tools and resources to help them become world changers. In her presentation, “Coming of Age; Unpacking Escapism, Trauma, and Identity,” she engages scholarly conversations on the depiction of children in children’s literature—specifically, Anne of Green Gables.

Lea Cheeseman – Blooming on the Horizon: Queer Futurity in Kay O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society  Series

Lea Cheeseman has been involved in queer activism since her early teens. She is the proud co-founder of St. Mary’s University’s first Gender & Sexuality Alliance and has been published in the Washington Post for organising and leading rallies in protest of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Her academic venture into the world of queer theory has been an engaging opportunity to enter the scholarly conversation surrounding queer issues and queer modes of literary analysis. Her essay “Blooming on the Horizon: Queer Futurity in Kay O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society Series” examines the academic conversation surrounding the future of queerness and looks at the children’s graphic novel series The Tea Dragon Society as a potent tool for (re)imagining communities that honour queer pasts, presents, and futures.

Tiana Hope – Alias Grace

Tiana is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in English at St. Mary’s University and will return for a Bachelor of Education (secondary) degree. Her minor in Psychology has increased her interest in the human psyche, and her conference paper on Atwood’s Alias Grace will delve into repressed trauma and its effects on memory. Tiana’s favourite pastime is reading and spending time with her cats.

Noah Stretch – Chasing Apes in The High Mountains of Portugal

Noah could rightfully be called a perpetual student. Having done a degree in Architectural Technologies and ultimately finding deskwork to be a poor fit for him, Noah returned to school only to get roped into doing another undergrad degree, this time in the highly employable field of English Literature. In the Fall, Noah will begin working on his third degree, this time in the St. Mary’s Education Program; having spent much of his life working with kids part-time, he is eager to begin his career as a teacher. Noah’s project, “Chasing Apes” charts the depiction of grief in Yann Martel’s novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, discussing the importance of both community and nature for the process of healing.

Lindsay Herrick – Sylvia Fraser’s Dual Lives: Reading Anthropomorphism

Lindsay is completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in psychology. Her capstone project, “Sylvia Fraser’s Dual Lives Through Anthropomorphism,” examines the parallels between the author’s autobiography and her children’s narrative. Lindsay’s previous experience working in education has inspired her to investigate the use of anthropomorphic characters in children’s trauma literature. Although her passion has always been educating children with special needs, she plans to try a career in marketing after completing her degree. In her spare time, Lindsay enjoys spending time with her family and her one-year-old puppy, Goose.

Jenna Sweetnam – Blurring the Lines: Creating Reality Through Fiction in Michael Ondaatje’s  Divisadero

On completing her Bachelor of Arts in English, Jenna hopes to follow it with a Bachelor of Education degree and pursue a career as an elementary school teacher. In the interval, she is excitedly planning a year of travel in Europe, and particularly looking forward to exploring Paris. Her capstone project centers around Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero, and his belief that “there is a hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly.” In Ondaatje’s novel, Jenna examines insights on the shared truths of human nature, and specifically those of identity formation.

Mya Hands – How to Survive in a World of Folly and Earnestness

Mya is a fourth-year English major with a minor in Drama. Her project is titled “How to Survive in a World of Folly and Earnestness”; it focuses on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Mya became very interested in Victorian literature when she took English 397.2 (Gothic Literature), and began to fall in love with the art that was born during the period. She has been a professional stage manager and director for eight years and has a deep-rooted passion for power of the arts, which became her muse for this project. Her work in theatre has sparked a particular fascination with Oscar Wilde’s plays: their portrayal of performativity and all the questions it provokes.

Reid Engelhart – Living Between the Lines: Analyzing the Appeal of Fictional Characters in Jeff Smith’s Bone

Reid is a fifth-year English Major, graduating in June this year. During his time at St. Mary’s, he has gained a new appreciation of literature and an even greater passion for reading and writing. Hoping to apply what he has learned over the course of his academic career, Reid aspires to contribute to the world of creative writing by becoming an author of fiction. His final project focuses on Jeff Smith’s Bone series, exploring the complex nature of fictional characters and how they are uniquely developed and graphically brought to life on the page.

Ashley Menard – More than words can wield: fiction, power, and reality in Shakespeare’s  The Tragedy of King Lear and Richard III

Ashley is an English student by day and a water polo coach and player by night. She enjoys reading when time allows, writing when time allows, and gaming even when time doesn’t allow. Her Capstone project, “‘More than words can wield’: fiction, power, and reality in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear and Richard III,” reflects her interest in the way literature shapes and is shaped by the cultural circumstances in which it is written. Supported by her accountant father and accountant sister (albeit in a bemused way that suggests they don’t know what she’s talking about), Ashley plans to apply for several Masters Programs after a year of working at 3Play Media.

Erika Pederson – The Timeliness of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Then and Now

After completing her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Psychology, Erika hopes to continue her studies into the Bachelor of Education degree at St. Mary’s University, though not before taking some time to travel to Europe. Erika first became enamoured with Margaret Atwood’s writing in a Major Authors course here at St. Mary’s University. She is particularly interested in the themes of women’s rights and gendered commodification in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Erika’s capstone project, “The Timeliness of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Then and Now,” examines the social, political, and cultural resonance of Atwood’s controversial novel nearly forty years after its release.

Taryn Gower – Homeric Epic: The Versatility of Heroes

Taryn’s interest in Greek mythology stemmed from taking several classes regarding Ancient Greece at St. Mary’s University. Her capstone project compares different depictions of the war hero in Homer’s epic narratives, arguing against the universalist “monomyth” approach taken in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. Taryn owes her fascination for writing on The Iliad (and specifically on war heroes Achilles and Hector) to reading one of her favourite historical fiction novels, Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. After she graduates, Taryn intends to pursue her Bachelor of Education degree and become a primary-level teacher.

Russell Betker – Every Epoch Dreams its Successor: The Posthuman Machine as Mediary Subject in the Metropolis Films

Russell is excited about completing his Bachelor of Arts in English and presenting his capstone project, “‘Every Epoch Dreams its Successor’: The Posthuman Machine as Mediary Subject in the Metropolis Films.” Fascinated with questions of identity, culture, and how one creates meaning through art, it is only fitting that his capstone project would incorporate the ever-complex and hybridised relationship of self to technology in the form of posthumanism. Russell’s capstone project analyses the Metropolis films of German director Fritz Lang and Japanese animation director Rintaro, paying close attention to the complex one-sided (mis)treatment of posthuman machines that relate and identify themselves within (and without) human-centric understandings of “self.” Russell plans to continue his studies with a Masters degree in English.

Shiella Mae Garana – Alienation and the Desire to Belong in Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human

Shiella is completing her Bachelor of Arts in English with the intent to return to St. Mary’s to pursue an education degree the following year. She has always been interested in the human condition and the complexity behind what it means to be human. In her Capstone project titled “Alienation and the Desire to Belong in Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human”

she examines the often neglected “unpleasant” human emotions that cause feelings of displacement, resulting in an “inauthentic” life. Her presentation highlights the importance of recognizing emotions of this kind, focusing on the powerful emotional literacy achieved through the naming and acknowledging of emotional experiences in Osamu Dazai’s novel No Longer Human.

Laura Fraser – The Market and the Mermaid: How Hans Christian Andersen’s  The Little Mermaid  Commodifies the Body.

Laura’s presentation is entitled, “The Market and the Mermaid: How Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid Commodifies the Body.”  Laura first became interested in Andersen’s tale during English 397.4 (Folk and Fairytales), and in Althusserian-Marxist critiques of culture in English 469 (Contemporary Literary Theory and Criticism). At the nexus of these interests, she noticed that The Little Mermaid aligned closely with Marx’s theory of commodification and researched the idea for a capstone project (one of two, as she is completing a double major in Liberal Studies and English). Laura’s plans for the future involve a Master of Arts in English at the University of Saskatchewan, beginning in September. She has an unnecessary fascination with antique teacups, which she inherited from her grandmother; and she constantly drew mermaids during class.

The 2023 English 401 seminar extends warmest thanks to the classmates who volunteered to serve as panel chairs: Jack Herron, Brennan Kavanagh, Elizabeth Hoogveld, Joseph Maxwell, and Juan Arcila. The seminar participants also wish to thank all of the StMU faculty and staff who supported them on their undergraduate journeys.