The Work of the Artist: Sigma Tau Delta Regional Undergraduate Conference

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Sigma Tau Delta/Mount St. Mary's University Department of English
contact email: 

This undergradaute conference seeks to examine the concept of labor in all of its forms: intellectual, artistic, physical, and otherwise. Our conference theme rises out of Sigma Tau Delta’s proposed common reading of the year, Tess Taylor’s Work and Days. This is, of course, a theme celebrated in literature through the ages.

For instance, in Robert Frost’s poem “The Death of the Hired Man,” Silas, the hired man, works one summer beside Harold Wilson, a boy home from college.  Silas believes if he could teach Harold to build a load of hay, “he’d be / some good perhaps to someone in the world. / He hates to see a boy the fool of books.”  This poem presents a tension between physical labor and intellectual labor. 

In 1964, Richard Hofstadter won a Pulitzer for Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.  A strain exists in American thought that looks askance at the labor of the mind as opposed to the labor of the hands.  And this suspicion of intellectual labor has an extra spin for those in literary studies as every English major has had to answer the question, “Yes, but what are you going to do with an English major?” 

Please propose a paper or a complete panel that takes a literary approach to the topic above. Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

  • physical labor, intellectual labor, artistic labor
  • the works of individual artists
  • gender and work
  • work of the private sphere, work of the public sphere
  • anti-intellectualism and anti-academia sentiment in our present times
  • labor, as in child birth
  • the “good” of an English major and the Humanities in the age of STEM

We invite conference participants to write about the theme of work, but we welcome paper and panel proposals that take a broader and more creative interpretation of the topic. Papers and creative writing produced in courses or independent studies are welcome. Presentations should be 10 to 15 minutes. Please submit abstracts of 200 words to

Faculty, please recommend this opportunity to your undergradaute students. 

The conference will take place Saturday, 21 Sept., 2019, from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2019.