‘Geeking out over literature’: Archer hosts annual Literature &… Conference

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Photo credit: Quincy Gordon

Literature &… board member Lily Kerner (’22) welcomes guests to Archer’s annual Literature &… Conference. The conference featured over 20 student-led presentations that dissected various works of literature.

By Cadence Callahan, Voices Editor

Content Warning: The content below references student presentations about sensitive themes, such as violence and assault. 

Students in business casual for as far as the eye can see. The sound of shuffling index cards and feet pacing back and forth is heard as students prepare to present their pieces for Archer’s annual Literature &… Conference.

The Literature &… Conference, which has been taking place for 14 years, was held in Archer’s Tia Palermo library March 10. The conference highlighted over 20 student-led lectures, which focused on a variety of literature and topics, such as pieces centered around psychology and feminist perspectives. This was the first in-person conference since 2019.

Brian Wogensen is the faculty adviser behind the conference and has overseen the event for eight years.

“The idea behind the conference is urging people to submit work that is integrating literature with something else, something that brings that piece to the present day, connects with the world around us and looks at literature with different lenses,” Wogensen said.

In October, Archer’s junior and senior students received an email with instructions on how to submit work to the conference. Wogensen said he reached out to numerous public and independent schools, such as Granada Hills High School and Loyola High School, encouraging students to write and submit to the conference.

“We sent emails to 40-50 different schools. I also reached out to department chairs at all those schools. We sent the schools posters and digital information to put up in their school,” Wogensen said. “We tried to do as much as we could like word-of-mouth and social media as well.”

While the conference is an Archer event, middle school students were not allowed to attend the lectures due to the sensitive topics that were discussed, such as violence and assault.

The six seniors operating the panels were Thea Leimone, Katelyn Chi, Chloe Fidler, Sabrina Kim, Alejandra Ayala and Lily Kerner. Ayala said it was a long process to read the submissions and select the featured work.

“I’m on the board, which means we get to read all the submissions that come from Archer and area schools. After reading the submissions, we have the process where we choose the ones we like, and we come together as a group to discuss the panels we’re going to have and who gets to be on the panels,” Ayala said.

Along with developing the themes of the panels and selecting presenters, the students on the Literature & board moderated the panels. After all the presentations in that theme finished, there was a Q&A portion.

I think the conference is extremely important to Archer because there are different perspectives. It’s not just Archer girls presenting, it’s people from different background and socioeconomic statuses,”

— Anny Rodriguez ('22)

Senior Anny Rodriguez participated in the panel entitled “The Woman Without.” The panel showcased works with feminist perspectives. Rodriguez presented on Chicana feminist reinscriptions of cultural figures such as La Llorona and La Malinche.

“It was a very personal piece. I’m a Chicana myself, so I’ve heard these tales since I was young,” Rodriguez said. “They were mainly used to scare me and make me behave, so I wanted to touch on that to provide that feminist sense.”

While junior and senior students were encouraged to submit work, writings that came from senior seminars were automatically submitted to the Literature &… board to consider.

“I wrote that piece for my honors class. When I got an email that said ‘We would like you to present,’ I didn’t even know my work was submitted. I was a little hesitant to present because I was critiquing my own culture in front of people that I didn’t know,” Rodriguez said. “Although I wrote it for my teacher’s eyes only, he thought it was something worth sharing. His belief in me inspired me to present.”

Rodriguez said she hoped people walked away from her presentation with a better understanding of the historical figures she discussed.

“I hope people understand a little more about Chicana feminists and their position in taking these culture figures in a more progressive way, rather than sticking to the traditional tellings,” Rodriguez said.

Senior Paola Hoffman participated in the panel entitled “Futures Past.” The panel featured various presentations dissecting works examining the intersection between literature, history and society.

“My presentation was about the Netflix adaptation of the manga ‘Alice in Borderland,’ and connecting it to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and explaining how oppressive regimes and dictatorships use different tools to effectively silence dissent,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman voluntarily submitted her essay from her AP English Literature class to the conference. Hoffman said she appreciated the opportunity to present at the conference and the platform to present on a topic that was interesting to her.

“In academia, it’s very easy for things to get stifled. In class, it’s, ‘Write this paper examining this topic, examine this book and make this claim,’ but what Literature &… does is invite everyone to synthesize ideas and bring in something that they really care about, so it’s not just what you’ve been assigned but something that matters to you,” Hoffman said. “We have things that we can learn from each other when we hear about the way our minds work and what we think about the world.”

Correction Statment (March 24, 2022, 3:00 p.m.) The article has been adjusted to say “Literature &…Conference” throughout the entire piece, restate that the “honors” classes are senior seminars and Paola Hoffman’s essay was not automatically submitted to the conference.