Break the Canon Contemporary Literature Symposium aims to shake up the English department

Photo by Madeleine Bentley

By McKenna Teigland /// Senior Staff Writer

There has been shaking and rattling going on within the English department at Lewis & Clark. For those who are not aware, there is a community within the department asking the question of what role the traditional English canon plays in the department program. This community has taken a proactive step in ensuring that some answers to this question may be discussed.

“The English major requirements at LC are structured so that there is little room for exploration of texts that are not included in the canon,” Kristen Lang ’16, a member of the planning committee for the Break the Canon Contemporary Literature Symposium, said. “Many students in the English department have felt a lack of contemporary literature in their curriculum at LC.”

Lang hopes that this symposium will “create a relaxed and inclusive environment that will foster interactive discussions.”

Sofia Yarberry ’16, inspired by the work of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference that several LC students attended a couple weeks ago, decided to make something happen on campus.

“Contemporary literature within academia is in a very complex place,” she said. “I wanted to be able to take [the AWP Conference] and fuse it into the English canon.”

Yarberry added that she has been “the one on the Google Doc all the time,” coordinating the symposium and planning the reading event, contemporary literature panel, and panel on queer literature.

“I would tell anybody that is considering attending a symposium event to come ready to learn about new texts and hear new perspectives on old texts,” Lang said, while Yarberry hopes that the symposium will give students an opportunity to “explore different writers [they] haven’t had a chance to read or talk about.”

The Break the Canon Contemporary Literature Symposium will be hosted by The Rusty Nail Co-op from April 19-21, with snacks available at most events, with coffee and tea available for purchase. It will include workshops, panels featuring students, alumni and professors, a reading, evening keynotes and an English curriculum discussion as a follow-up to a department sponsored one earlier in the year.

“Simply, we hope to make space for new perspectives on time-honored works, and engagement with new works, texts that aren’t given the same reverence in the classroom as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer,” Lang said.

The symposium is not affiliated with the English department.

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