Fulfilling My Dreams at the New Critics Conference

by · April 20, 2015

Emily DiBiase (far right) presented her paper “Enlightened or Undeceived: Paths to Uncovering the Truth in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey” at SUNY Oneonta’s New Critics Conference on April 11, 2015.

Ever since I was a freshman, I have wanted to participate in the New Critics Conference. Held at SUNY Oneonta every April, the conference features undergraduate student presenters who read critical papers that they have written about either literature or composition. As a shiny-eyed freshman, presenting at this conference seemed to be the most unattainable, but elite, honor. I wondered if I would ever be confidant enough to present at such a conference.

Last Saturday, I fulfilled my freshman dream by presenting at the New Critics Conference.

This year’s encounter with the conference began as all of my others have ﹘ one of my professors gave out the flyer in class and I thought, “I would love to do that someday.” I even taped the flyer to my desk, hoping that would inspire me. Still, I just didn’t have the nerve to apply.

Then, in February, I happened to use the word “undeceived” on an online discussion forum for my Jane Austen class. Dr. Witkowsky commented that he liked my word choice and suggested that I compare the words “undeceived” and “enlightened” in an upcoming exam essay question. He enjoyed my essay response so much that he suggested I expand my research and use it as the subject for our next term paper. Even more so, he asked me to consider presenting the paper at the New Critics Conference, which was accepting abstracts through the following Monday.

My heart stopped. The perfect alignment of being able to present on my favorite author at my dream conference in my senior year at the Mount was too excellent to resist, so I mustered up my courage and submitted an abstract. To my delight, the abstract was accepted, and after much writing, editing, and rehearsing, I found myself headed to SUNY Oneonta on April 11.

After nervously signing in and receiving my official presenter badge (see left), I headed to the conference room where I was to deliver my paper. Finally, the moment arrived for my presentation. I took a deep breath as the moderator announced my name and the title of my paper. Before I knew it, I heard my own voice reading from the paper that I had come to know so well. After the first few seconds of terror at speaking in front of others, I realized that, despite what I had thought as a freshman, I was prepared for this moment. The Mount had given me the tools needed to effectively present an argument in front of my peers and professors, and to actually know what I was talking about. The feeling was absolutely amazing as I finished reading the paper and realized that I had accomplished my “unattainable” dream.

After all of the panelists spoke, we participated in a Q & A session, where audience members had the opportunity to ask us questions about our research. This section may have been the most exciting for me, because it really showed me that I knew my topic well and that, even as an undergraduate, I had valuable input to add to the academic community.

Emily DiBiase (right) reads her paper at the New Critics Conference.

As I prepare to graduate from the Mount in just a few short weeks, I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to present at this conference. As I walk across the stage on graduation day, I can look back on the day that I first heard about the New Critics Conference in freshman year and realize that, through the Mount, no dream is unattainable.

Emily DiBiase, Class of 2015, is an English major from Mahopac, N.Y. with a concentration in Writing and minors in Public Relations and Religious Studies.