Wow! That was a really interesting argument. I never considered the ethical subtext of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight before. I contemplated Matthew Maximiuk’s arguments as I exited the conference room having just introduced myself to him and discussed his presentation. Today was the annual conference of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts & Letters at Alma College, where several of my friends and I were going to be presenting our research in just a few hours. I was nervous and excited, wondering who would show up to listen to my presentation and what kinds of questions they would ask.
My research focused on the homoerotic potential of the relationship between Celia and Rosalind, two cousins in William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. I had seen a performance of that play directed by Des McAnuff two summers ago at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada on an English department study tour, and that particular dimension of the two characters’ interactions leapt out at me from the stage. I had already written a lengthy paper on the topic, which I had condensed to share at the conference, but I was also planning to revisit the project and expand it into my Senior Honors Thesis. In order to strengthen my argument, I hoped to use queer theory, an up-and-coming approach to literary criticism, to explore the assumptions about gender and sexuality embedded in Shakespeare’s playtext and engaged by McAnuff’s performance. However, queer theory’s limited use at Andrews made me look forward to the opportunity to talk to some students and faculty from other universities with more experience in this area.
As I walked, I reflected on the sense of community offered by research. After all, thanks to this conference I already have one new friend who shares a passion for ethics and film. Though facing the challenges of coherent critical thinking and endless reading are solitary labors, once that prized kernel of insight appears, it demands to be shared and vetted by other, interested scholars. So, while research is pursued individually, it can only be of use when shared with a wider community, meaning that interacting and communicating with others is a key skill developed by any successful researcher. These traits grow along with the more individual virtues cultivated by research such as the initiative and responsibility required to set reasonable goals and follow through on those plans. And of course, one cannot forget the sense of pride and personal accomplishment gained from contributing to human understanding of a topic you feel is important. With a renewed heart calmed by these thoughts, I moved into the classroom where I would soon present my paper. Still nervous, but feeling slightly more confident, I sat down and waited as the first presenter for our session (a friend from Andrews) moved forward to begin reading her paper. Giving her a thumbs-up sign, I settled in to enjoy another’s fascinating scholastic endeavors.
Recent Andrews graduate Theron Calkins is currently teaching English at a public school in South Korea. He stays busy writing and exploring the country.