Sigma Tau Delta Steals the Show in St. Louis

Join us in celebrating the English Honor Society's banner year

Sigma Tau Delta logoThe Alpha Tau Phi Chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society recently sent nine of UO English’s best and brightest undergrads to the organization’s annual conference.

Corinne BrubakerCadaxa Chapman-BallCaroline Fenty, Sarah Hovet, Isabela Medina, Anika Nykanen, Alyssa Pete, Katie Souza, and Scott Zeigler traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, at the end of March to deliver presentations on an impressive range of texts, periods, and theoretical concerns, from order and chaos in the Old English Beowulf, to letter writing and subjectivity in Clarissa, to Cree figures in indigenous American science fiction.  

This achievement caps a landmark year for the honor society. Nine is the greatest number of presenters the chapter has sent to a conference in a single year. That number also placed UO in this year’s top 10 for the highest number of projects accepted from a particular school. This year, 192 colleges and universities attended or participated in the conference.

Chapter President Caroline Fenty observes that the convention was an invaluable opportunity to grow as a rhetor and scholar—and not simply because of its practical benefits. 

“The conference,” she remarks, “is pitched as something that ‘looks really good’ on a resume.” Considering the conference’s opportunities to present work on an international stage and its several workshops on career exploration, resume building, and skills development, the professionalization is a given. “But it is also a chance to connect with other people, to have English nerds get together and geek out about what their passionate about.”

That sense of scholarly community, Fenty continues, is exactly what Sigma Tau Delta fosters, both at the chapter level and as a larger organization. “People think of English as a major of introverts, so it doesn’t seem like there are opportunities to find a group and talk about what you love. But Sigma Tau Delta thinks about the scholar as a complete person. The mission is connection. The goal is to create social spaces for research and passion.”

Cadaxa Chapman Ball, one of this year’s presenters, makes much the same case. “Other English majors should know that Sigma Tau is really a community. The members are . . . engaging and really help support other members in academic and professional pursuits. It can be intimidating to get involved, but it’s really worth it. Anyone can go to classes and get a degree in English but getting involved in the community requires more commitment and true passion in the field.”

Sigma Tau Delta’s other recent projects within the Department have included a celebration of the Harry Potter series and the successful Pizza with Professors.

Sigma Tau Delta accepts applications for induction year around. For more information about the chapter, please visit their website or reach out to: Outgoing Chapter President Caroline Fenty (cfenty@uoregon.edu), Incoming President Anika Nykanen (anykanen@uoregon.edu), or Faculty Sponsor Dr. Corbett Upton (cupton@uoregon.edu). 


We interviewed each of the Sigma Tau Delta presenters to learn more about their interests and projects. Explore the links below to find out more about these wonderful students:

  1. Corinne Brubaker: “Lemony Snicket: Treachery and Approachability”
  2. Cadaxa Chapman Ball: “Shelley’s Nature of Poetry: The Creative Process”
  3. Caroline Fenty: “Split” (original fiction)
  4. Sarah Hovet: “Enclosing Subjectivity: Letters in Clarissa
  5. Izzy Medina: “Nebulous Divisions of Order and Chaos in Beowulf
  6. Anika Nykanen: “Where Journalism Fails”
  7. Alyssa Pete: “Deviant Gender and Sexuality in Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  8. Katie Souza: “‘Wakening’: Indigenous Sci-Fi and Cree Figures”
  9. Scott Zeigler: “Antagonistic River: Reading Nature in Fiction”

Corinne Brubaker, “Lemony Snicket: Treachery and Approachability”

Bio: I am a senior studying English and Spanish. I especially love the intersection of linguistics/grammar and literature, which is why classes like “Chaucer” and “Art of the Sentence” have been my favorites. I am interested in the study of the language itself, not just how it is used to construct meaning. I am currently pursuing a job in publishing, preferably editing, and hoping to be accepted to the University of Denver Publishing Institute this summer.

Presentation: At this year's convention I presented part of a paper that I wrote for Professor Bergquist's class, “Art of the Sentence,” last year. The paper looks at the first installment of the children's series A Series of Unfortunate Events and examines the way that grammatical choices and sentence structures create an enjoyable experience for young readers, despite the depressing content. I chose A Series of Unfortunate Events because they were some of my very favorite books as a child. I wanted to revisit them to understand what made them so fun and whimsical.

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Cadaxa Chapman Ball, “Shelley’s Nature of Poetry: The Creative Process”

Bio: Besides being an English major, I’m also a tutor for the Writing Associates Program and a writer for Emerald Essentials, the lifestyle publication under the Emerald Media Group. I love both writing and working with students on their writing, especially academic writing. I’m interested in just about everything, but writing, literary analysis, and critical pedagogy are my life long passions and pursuits. I will be applying to English PhD programs this fall, with the intention of teaching writing and composition at the university level (one day). I’m particularly interested in the application of antiracist pedagogy, and I hope to research the topic further in grad school.

Presentation: My paper is an exploration of what nineteenth-century Romantic poetry is through analyzing the connections between Percy Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry” and John Keats’s poem “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again.” I initially wrote this paper for my Romanticism class last year, and it was one of my favorites. I wanted to polish it and revisit it, so I was happy to have the opportunity to do so for my application to the convention. I am most excited by the philosophical implications of my essay, and what my thesis can tell us about art in general.

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Caroline Fenty: “Split”

Bio: I am a book lover, cat mother, and long-distance runner with a vivacious passion for writing. I recently defended (and passed with distinction) my honors thesis, for which I wrote a novel that follows the misadventures following an unexpected second meeting of a neurotic young woman and the internet salesman who appears at her door first to sell her on his product and then to seek her aid.

An English major and creative writing minor, some of my favorite authors include Garth Stein, Maria Semple, Lorrie Moore and Anthony Doerr and I majorly nerd out for Shakespeare, whose works I have been writing into short a capella musicals for the past five years. Post-graduation, I intend to continue writing, hopefully in several mediums, and to share my love for literature with others whether it be through academia and as an educator or socially in the setting of a rollicking book club. Either would give me a great excuse to whip up some killer biscotti. 

Presentation: I presented a piece of original short fiction, entitled “Split”, at the conference which follows a young boy who is worried that he may be pregnant, the underlying truth however being that he is worried about his mother who is actually pregnant and the unknowns of what this baby means. I wrote this piece early in my writing career at the UofO during a time when I was interested in the child’s perspective and how anxieties and normalities of life could be defamilarized and reconsidered through this lens. 

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Izzy Medina:

Bio: My three favorite kinds of literature are books by women and about women, Gothic or Southern Gothic novels, and literature from pre-1500 periods. Since being at the UO, I’ve developed an interest in working in education. I was recently accepted into Teach for America, a non-profit organization which hires incoming teachers to work in underserved communities around the U.S., and I will be working with them for two years. After those two years, maybe I will have figured out my life more and what I want to do. When I’m not working and reading for classes, I like reading for fun, watching horror movies, and looking at bird memes.

Presentation: I wrote the paper as a sort of reflective essay about the Old English epic poem Beowulf. The paper is mainly focused on the idea that, when we consider medieval literature in our modern time, we often consider it as simplistic and, at times, even savage, since this is largely how we suppose medieval society to have been. But Beowulf complicates these assumptions. It is a text which is intensely self-reflective and aware of the society in which its writer existed and the past in which his society derived.

My paper sets out to analyze how, in Beowulf, violence serves as a means of maintaining order and chaos is deeply questioned. The poem emphasizes ways in which chaos is a product of the human world, while also challenging human assumptions about where chaos and order reside, thus questioning the heroic age as a whole. I think I am most excited about my examination of how the text emphasizes that humans are not automatically agents of order: chaos is something human-made and omnipresent within society, and perhaps the manner of protecting order within the heroic age is not enough to maintain peace in the modern age.

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Anika Nykanen: “Where Journalism Fails”

Bio: I'm currently writing a paper for the Humanities Undergraduate Research Fellowship (HURF) about how Southern Gothic writers used child characters to explore race and racism in the first half of the 20th century. In general, I love contemporary fiction—Donna Tartt is a favorite at the moment. Outside of school I love running and cooking, and I'm a big podcast fan.

Presentation: The paper I presented for the conference looks at how Langston Hughes's "Home" humanizes an internationally renowned black violinist and eventual lynching victim, lending greater emotional depth to the consideration of the hate crime in a way that journalists rarely did at the time. The paper came out of an assignment in Professor Whalan's class on the Harlem Renaissance. I'm most excited about my close reading of Hughes. His poeticism in this piece is beautiful and terrifying.

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Alyssa Pete: “Deviant Gender and Sexuality in Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Bio: I mainly enjoy reading realistic fiction about familial or social interactions. This is because I write these kinds of stories myself, so it gives me inspiration for my own work. My ideal career would be to continue writing fiction and actually get paid for it, but more realistically I am looking at entering the publishing industry as an editor. I’m currently in the process of applying for internships and jobs in the industry for experience before I return to school for an MFA in creative writing. When I am not panicking about or trying to plan the future, I go on hikes, have game nights with friends—side note: I love board games—binge the same four shows on Netflix, and listen to podcasts. I may or may not be obsessed with true crime podcasts and need new recommendations. Oh, and I paint on the side.

Presentation: I presented a research paper that uses The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS), a 1970s film, as a lens for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I mainly focus on how the relationships between characters in the two texts are similar and represent “deviant” gender and sexuality. The main argument is that these similarities result in contrasting audience response based on the social context of the text. I stumbled upon this topic through my love of Frankenstein and involvement in a cast that does performances of RHPS every term. I continually noticed similarities between the two and decided to do further research on the topic. Some of my most interesting discoveries were on the visual representations of RHPS characters that correlate to imagery in Frankenstein.

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Katie Souza: “‘Wakening’: Indigenous Sci-Fi and Cree Figures”

Bio: A major research interest of mine is Indigenous literature. I am interested in how Indigenous creators use literature to expose and push back against colonialism. I find that post-colonial theory, feminist theory, and eco-criticism help reveal nuances in Indigenous literature. My career aspirations are to become a college professor in order to continue literary research and to become a published author. I enjoy writing both poetry and fiction for fun (and for my creative writing classes). I am not devoted to a specific genre in my reading or writing. One minute I’ll be reading fantasy and then next I’ll be writing a historical fiction piece. My bookshelves are filled with a wide array of literature! But it also means I have an insatiable curiosity for all things literature.

[Note: Katie will be joining the MA program in English here at UO, starting in Fall 2019.]

Presentation: The paper I presented is about Danis Goulet’s short film titled “Wakening”. The film includes two traditional Cree figures, Wesakechak and Weetigo, and Cree language. However, the film is in the sci-fi genre, meaning that it is set in an apocalyptic future. The paper examines how Goulet’s choice to position traditional Cree figures in an apocalyptic world reveals the cannibalistic nature of colonialism. I began this paper in Dr. Kirby Brown’s ENG 488: Race & Representation in Film: Native American Film and Literature course. I was excited to share this paper at conference because it showcases a piece created by a contemporary Indigenous woman. Considering the political situation today, I hope that my paper draws people’s attention to the genius of Indigenous literature.

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Scott Zeigler: “Antagonistic River: Reading Nature in Fiction”

Bio: I'm mostly an English major because I couldn't major in creative writing. But I'm deeply passionate about literature, particularly contemporary novels, and I collect books. In my free time I go to garage sales, and I like to work on bicycles.

[Note: Scott will be joining the MFA creative writing program at Emerson College in Fall 2019.]

Presentation: I'm studying Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion and how he positions the Wakonda Auga River as an antagonistic character in the novel. Because the Knight Library Special Collections houses Kesey's archives, I've had access to his developmental notes and letters he wrote to his friend Ken Babbs about the story. I also have access to the landscape and landmarks he used to develop the book by driving down the highway toward Florence.

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