A Review of the Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference by Alumna Tugba Ilik

Tugba Ilik graduated from Old Westbury with a Bachelor’s degree in English in May 2015. For her senior thesis, she did her research on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway primarily focusing on Septimus’s masculinity. She is currently applying to M.A. programs in English and hopes to ultimately pursue a Ph.D. 


Thanks to Professor Camarasana, who was my Major Authors professor and Senior Thesis Director, I became familiar with a part of the literary and scholarly world that I, unfortunately, had no idea existed – the Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference. I had the opportunity to attend this four day conference and present a paper there as well. The experience was worthwhile as I got the chance to meet other students, professors, and scholars from around the world who were deeply interested in Virginia Woolf  and other female modernist writers.

The conference took place at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. When I hear the word “conference” I think of a long rectangular table in the middle of a big room; there are seats for about 20 people and each person has a microphone in front of them. They get to present their paper and then we all talk about it at the end. Well, that clearly wasn’t the case here. So let me take a moment to explain how the conference was set up. There were about 15-20 panels every day, with the exception of Sunday (a shorter day which only offered five panels). Each panel had three or four presenters and there were about four panels going on at the same time in different classrooms. You chose which panel you wanted to attend based on the panel topic. Once the panel was over, you were welcome to ask questions to the panelists.


In between panels or after all the panels were over for the day, there were roundtable discussions that lasted about an hour and a half in which scholars discussed certain topics. The most memorable one for me was the discussion by Melissa Bradshaw and Madelyn Detloff. I say memorable not because the other discussions were less interesting but because this discussion helped me understand the big issues that seem to exist in the scholarly and academic world that I, as an undergraduate student who just graduated, and you as students continuing your undergraduate English degrees, should take seriously.

IMG_0295The discussion started off with Melissa Bradshaw talking about Shari Benstock, Hilda Doolittle (or “H.D.”), and Dame Edith Sitwell and how they showed their aesthetics in their writing. I had no idea who these writers were, and that for me was one of the most frustrating things (a point I’ll return to again below). She continued talking about these writers in an exasperated effort to almost justify that these women were also modernist writers. Where are these women in the “literary cannon” is the big question that comes up at the end.

Madelyn Detloff took a much more assertive approach in tackling this question. She called it “Woolf fatigue” meaning that Woolf is not the only modernist writer and that Woolf is constantly used as a means of talking about modernism. She continued to talk about how modernism should be portrayed to students in classrooms by professors. She mentioned that professors have control over the material that they present to their students and therefore writers from the modernist period who are not well known should also be taught and added to the literary canon.


And she is right. Why? Because half (or most, I should say) of the writers that these two speakers talked about I knew nothing of and that is what frustrated me. There I was at a conference about women modernist writers and I only knew of Woolf.  However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t learn about Woolf or other modernist writers who are already in the “literary canon.” This just means that the voices of these other modernist writers need to be heard, too.


Nonetheless, the point that Im trying to make by sharing my experience is that this conference was enlightening for me! I now have a list of authors that I feel I must learn more about which is quite exciting! I feel much more confident as an English major now that I have participated in a professional conference with other students, professors, and scholars.

I encourage all of you literature-savvy students to take part in these types of conferences and involve yourself in critical discussions both in and out of the classroom. To find out more about conferences—at SUNY OW and elsewhere—talk to your professors, show up to the English Department career chats, and follow the English Dept. webpage.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience and best of luck to all of you!

Reminder: Career Chats TODAY & TOMORROW!!!

Join the

English Department

for the

FALL 2015



Tuesday, October 6TH  &

Wednesday, October 7TH

** NAB Room 3117

Common Hour

2:30 – 3:50 PM

This event is co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs

Hosted by the English Department

for more information contact Prof. Danielle Lee atLeeD@oldwestbury.edu

From Bachelor to Master: Part 1 of a 3-part Blog Series by Jonathan Noyes

Jonathan Noyes recently received his B.A. in English from SUNY College at Old Westbury and was accepted into our MAT in English graduate program. His 3-part blog series, “From Bachelor to Master” will cover his experiences transitioning from undergraduate to graduate student. This, his first installment, discusses the decision to apply to the MAT and his expectations about both the program and what it will mean to be a grad student. 


It hasn’t even been a month since I presented my senior thesis on mental illness in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and now I’m beginning the M.A.T. program here at SUNY College at Old Westbury. I’m still wondering if this is really happening. After taking classes part-time at Old Westbury for almost three years, I’ve finally completed my undergraduate degree, but it still hasn’t quite set in. Perhaps I just need to receive my shiny diploma in the mail for it to finally feel official. I’ve decided to continue my education immediately by beginning the Masters in the Arts of Teaching (MAT) program, which I’m attempting to complete in two years. I know will be a difficult task, but I have confidence in both myself and the professors at Old Westbury.

Why the MAT program? I’ve known for some time now that I want to be an educator. As an adolescent who experienced a lot of anxiety within the realm of high school, I feel an obligation to help those who may be experiencing similar anxieties in their adolescence through the process of learning. An English teacher named Michael Schwendemann, a name I will never forget, is precisely how I managed to finish high school, and why I ended up applying for higher education in the first place. I often think about how my life would have been different if he never mentored me. Perhaps I wouldn’t even be writing this blog. English is a subject in school that bears great potential to teach individuals a lot about themselves and those around them, and I plan to take advantage of that. I regularly envision facilitating meaningful discussions pertaining to topics that are important for young adults to contemplate, while making the process of learning enjoyable. Adolescents need guidance, and I feel my energetic personality will help me to become a great ally to my students, and them to me.

Why Old Westbury? The English department at Old Westbury has always been extremely accommodating. The professors are incredibly active in their roles — they make themselves available often, they seek out students to present their work on conference panels, and they even host career chats to convey the many benefits of being an English major. Not to mention, my experience with Dr. Sieben, coordinator for SUNY Old Westbury graduate programs in English Education, confirmed for me that the English Department genuinely cares about their students’ success. Mentors like Dr. Williams, Dr. Dissinger, and of course, Dr./Mama Torrell in particular have been extremely influential in my decision to continue my academic journey here at Old Westbury. I feel like a member of the English Department family now, and I plan to continue facilitating that relationship!

I’ve been extremely fortunate to receive financial aid for my master’s education. While the price of tuition is an undeniably great deal, accumulating roughly $6000 for each semester would still be extremely difficult for me to achieve without some form of assistance. Luckily, the Financial Aid Office has been extremely helpful, and thanks to them, my application process has gone smoothly. I should also note that Dr. Nicole Sieben has been incredibly helpful. Up until recently, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to afford my education, so I was late on applying. Dr. Sieben contacted the appropriate professors requesting overtallies and kept me informed via email and phone calls along the way. She didn’t have to go the extra mile for me, but she did, and I’m extremely thankful for it.

To be honest, while my educational experiences at Old Westbury have been nothing less than amazing, my transition into the sphere of becoming an educator myself is another feat entirely. While I’m aware that the English course curriculum is going to be considerably bulkier than the undergraduate English courses, I believe the undergraduate program has done a great job of preparing me for what’s to come. I have yet to take a course with the infamous Dr. Hobson, so I’m excited about that! The educational (ED) courses on the other hand, I have yet to experience. However, I’m hoping that the quality of the Education department is similar to the English department that I’ve come to know and love. My experience at Old Westbury thus far has been promising, and I’m sure my upcoming endeavors will be equally influential on my personal growth as a future educator. Here’s to a wonderful semester!