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A Meeting of the Minds on Author’s Works

For the first time, Ursinus students joined students at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., to compare notes on Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton.

Associate Professor of English Meredith Goldsmith, herself an internationally-known Wharton scholar, accompanied students from her class, “Edith Wharton’s World” (Eng 310), to William and Mary April 17 and 18.

The conference agenda, she said, was a mix of papers, responses, film and other activities. In addition to roundtables on short passages and films based on Wharton’s works, students presented full-length papers, and also offered responses to the William and Mary presentations. Some students showed knowledge of digital humanities, such as seniors Bernadette Calderone and Emily Lamb, who edited the largely undeveloped article for Wharton’s novel The Reef on Wikipedia. “We are able to write about a novel we enjoyed studying in class and take pride in the fact that, due to our efforts, both Wharton and her novel are better represented on Wikipedia,” said Calderone.

“This conference is a wonderful opportunity to gain an understanding of how an academic conference works,” Calderone added. “It (allowed) us to present our work outside of the Ursinus community and hear the work of our peers and professors.”

Lauren Geiger ’17, an English major and German minor, said she was “really looking forward to engaging in discussion about Edith Wharton and her work in a conference setting. I hope to view Wharton through new perspectives by listening to my peers’ presentations and interpretations of her work.” She presented a paper called “Fixed Framework and the Future: Shifting Points of View in Edith Wharton’s The Reef.”

“We are fostering undergraduate work in the humanities,” said Goldsmith. “This is excellent preparation for graduate school.”

Perhaps the participants will want to submit an essay to the Edith Wharton Society for a new Undergraduate Research Prize that Goldsmith, as president of the Society, created last year. Students would also be able to submit to the biennial conference of the Edith Wharton Society, Wharton in Washington DC, in summer 2016.

“Conferences like this provide a pipeline to further scholarship,” Goldsmith said. The Ursinus Strategic Planning fund and Teaching and Learning Institute, as well as the William and Mary Dean’s office, provided funding. 

Goldsmith, founding director of the Teaching and Learning Institute at Ursinus College, is the editor of the Edith Wharton Review and Middlebrow Moderns: Popular Women’s Writing of the 1920s (Northeastern UP), and also serves on the Editorial Board of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. She has recently been awarded a Visiting Faculty Fellowship in the Humanities Writ Large program at  Duke University.