Archer Holds 8th Annual ‘Literature &…’ Conference

Archer presenters enjoy the conference.

Archer presenters enjoy the conference.

By Emma Lapin

On Feb. 26, Archer hosted its 8th annual “Literature &…” Conference.

This literary conference invites students to present analytic and creative pieces inspired by literature and its connection to something else, such as history, philosophy or pop culture. The Archer website describes the event as “a unique opportunity for students around Los Angeles to come together and share their passion for literature in an environment that is simultaneously joyful and intellectually rigorous.”

The event ran from 8:15 am to 3:00 pm and was free, but attendees needed reservations. Thirty-four students from eight schools presented, and many of their classmates and family members came to support them. The event, which is usually held in the library, had a record number of attendees this year—over a hundred people—and was moved to the Rose Room to accommodate the larger audience.

The application process started in the fall of 2013, and students were notified of their selection on Feb. 9.

English Department Chair Kristin Taylor—the faulty coordinator—said, “Presenters are arranged in panels by theme, and each panel is followed by a Q&A with the audience.” This year the six panels were Odd Couples, Dark Worlds, Form and Function, The Distance Between Us, The Divided Self, and Freeing the Self.

Presentation topics traversed a wide variety of topics and formats, including original poems and songs, a student-created movie comparing Hamlet to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and analytic papers covering everything from Genesis to the future of humanity.

Taylor created the panels as she selected the presenters. “It’s a complex process, because it’s important to me that no panel be dominated by a single school, so I look for proposals with ideas or topics that overlap,” she noted.

When talking about this complex process, Taylor added, “Sometimes this means spreading [all submissions] all out on the floor like a giant jigsaw puzzle to see how the pieces fit together. It’s important to me that the papers connect, but it’s also important that they provide a variety of perspectives so the Q&A at the end of each panel is rich and nuanced.”

Being selected is an honor. According to the website, “The selection process is competitive; on average, we accept 1 in 3 proposals.”

Taylor explained her goals: “I want to bring students together from schools across Los Angeles to share their original ideas and insights, and I want them to leave feeling that they have gained something from both speaking and listening.”

One of her continuing goals is “to get some of the local public schools involved in the conference. I’ve reached out every year, but I’ve never gotten a submission.”

Student presenters Leila Taleghani ‘14 and Athena Schlereth ‘14 focused on “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the “Bhagavada Gita.” Their presentation was one of the most original, using strobe lights and music from the film to highlight their monolith before beginning their discussion of the texts.

They said their goals were “to spread enlightenment to everyone in the audience. We tried to reach enlightenment by turning our paper into a monolith. We were rewarded with enlightenment, maybe.”

A few changes to this year’s conference were that the conference has a website and a Facebook account, which allowed students and teachers to get information more easily.

Taylor says the event was “a success.” As student presenters and the audience reflected on the conference, many recognized the presenters’ passion for their unique topics and were thankful for the event, which celebrated the sharing of student ideas.

Several teachers from visiting schools shared their thoughts on the conference’s Facebook page. Pilgrim School teacher Steve Hurley commented, “The energy in the room was thrilling today.”

Windward teacher Maja Starcevic added, “What a wonderful and inspirational day! It made me (even more) happy and proud to be an English teacher.”

To see a photo gallery of images from the day taken by Daniel In, follow this link.