English Department Open House Inspires and Delights

One of York’s annual fall highlights is the English Department’s Open House, known for its delightful presentations by students and faculty alike; and this year’s event lived up to expectations as well.

Tea, literature, and writing make for a sublime experience, as exemplified by the students who read from their own works developed under the mentorship of faculty in the audience. These burgeoning scholars of the literary arts engage and delight with essays based on their own diverse cultural experiences with life or the English language.

Emceed by Journalism professor, Tom Moore, this year’s Fall Open House, entitled “Discovery,” covered the topics “Science Journalism” (Professor Moore); “The Art of the Essay” (Professor Cynthia Haller) and “World Englishes” (Professor Heather Robinson). For the “World Englishes” presentation, students Tishena Sylvester, Hanna Joseph and Asma Dorria read from their own essays detailing their experiences with the English language either as a second language learned by watching television or learned in their English-speaking birth countries.

The students’ captivating anecdotes included using the words “itch” and “scratch” in the reverse (i.e., my arm is scratching me; I have to itch it) and using other variants unfamiliar to those speaking standard [American] school-based English. They also discussed “meshing,” a hybrid of both standard and broken English used interchangeably.

Dr. Cynthia Haller, Acting Chair of the English Department, followed the students’ presentation with her own presentation, “The Essay as a Genre.”

“Three people just gave us an example of the personal essay,” said Haller. “An essay is a journey to an unknown destination. You are always searching…and you can’t forget the playfulness of the essay….”

Asked why the department engages in the annual event, Haller spoke of the import of interconnecting the social with the intellectual to engage students.

“The English Department hosts an open house so that prospective and current majors and faculty can meet with and get to know one another better,” said Haller. “Joining in a festive event with an intellectual focus both strengthens our relationships and reminds us that opportunities for learning, far from being restricted to the interior of a classroom, pervade all of life.”

Organized by Professor Phebe Kirkham and a dedicated committee, the well-attended event was held in the Faculty Dining Room on November 13.

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