Two Trevecca English majors and a faculty member recently presented their papers about the works of C.S. Lewis and other authors in front of scholars, faculty members and students from all over the country.
Junior Christian Mack, senior Torri Frye and Dr. Michael Karounos, associate professor of English, participated in the 11th biennial Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis and Friends last week, May 31-June 3. Held at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., the colloquium included keynote addresses from top Lewis scholars and sessions focused around the theme of “The Faithful Imagination.”
Through presentations, papers and sessions, participants explored the works of C.S. Lewis, along with those fellow “Inklings” Owen Barfield, J.R.R. Tolkien and more.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am of our students because not only did they do good scholarly work, but they did original scholarly work,” Karounos said. “That’s the hardest thing to do.”
Both Frye and Mack’s papers began as an assignment in Karounos’ C.S. Lewis course last spring. After reading the essays, Karounos encouraged his students to develop their papers and submit them to the colloquium’s undergraduate essay competition.
“As a faculty member you read a ton of paper… so when you’ve read thousands, literally thousands, of student papers over your career, the good ones really stand out,” Karounos said. “And they [Frye and Mack’s essays] stand out typically for two reasons: one, because they’re original or two, because they’re well written and researched.”
Aside from paper presentations, the colloquium also featured performances, tea and coffee breaks, keynote addresses, game nights, a book sale and other activities. Organizers say the conference is known for being “both brainy and friendly, both scholarly and popular,” according to an article from Taylor University.
Only three undergraduates were given prizes for the scholarly essay competition. Mack took first prize for his original essay that identified connections between a character from C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces and the Platonic theory of love in the Symposium.
In addition to the opportunity to discuss his paper in the same session as Karounos, Mack received free room and board, cash prizes and free student registration. His work will also be published in a journal alongside faculty members— an impressive achievement even for graduate students, Karounos said.
“It just feels like the first stepping stone,” Mack said. “It’s really exciting because this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life. Being able to get started at this point is something that I’m really happy about.”
Frye was also a finalist in the undergraduate essay competition, receiving free registration to the conference. To prepare to present her paper—on Lewis’ use of unbearable longing—Frye says she repeatedly rehearsed, read her paper and looked over her PowerPoint presentation.
Frye presented her work in the professional scholars’ session.
“A lot of academic conferences focus on professors’ work, adults’ work,” she said. “To have a conference that focuses on bringing in undergrads, it’s an amazing opportunity.”
Mack and Frye credit the community aspect in the English department for allowing their ideas to thrive and develop.
“I feel like everyone in the English department also has a passion for writing,” Mack said. “When other people are around you have the same passion… it makes you want to be better.”