Previewing the Arts and Humanities Symposium

by Leah Whitcomb
social media manager

The Arts and Humanities Symposium is, as English professor Anne MacMaster calls it, “a competition for the best student research paper in the arts and humanities.” Students can enter the contest by submitting a research paper they wrote in an art or humanities class the previous semester. The papers are then judged by a panel of anonymous faculty members who have not had the students before in a class. From the papers submitted, the panel comes to a consensus on the five best papers that are to present at the symposium. This semester, the panel read more than 30 submissions and chose five finalists to present: Liz Allen, Katie Alford, Brittany Hardy, Mary Frances Ivey and Katie Kirkland. After they present, the judges will choose a winner, who will receive a cash prize.

The chosen papers cover a wide variety of topics, including fallen women in Faulkner and the roots of Renaissance painting in the ancient world. Junior Kirkland describes her paper as classical theology. “My paper is analyzing these two articles written by a philosopher named John Bishop,” she states. “[He] talks about coming up with a conception of God as a final cause instead of an efficient cause. So instead of a creator, he’s more like the goal.”

Alford, a senior, wrote her paper on the 17th century Puritan leader and judge at the Salem Witch Trials, Cotton Mather, who strongly advocated for small pox inoculation at a time when science was deemed satanic. “I really liked my paper because it combined two things I really like: history and medical history,” she says. “It was a pleasure for me to write, which is not something you usually hear students say.”

Of the winning papers, MacMaster says, “These are exemplary papers. They’re examples for everybody else so any Millsaps student who wants to write a great research paper in arts or humanities should come. If any first-year students out there don’t really know what they’re supposed to do if they have to write a paper with multiple sources, they should come and listen to these papers to get an idea.”

“We’re going to have refreshments.” MacMaster adds, “Also if anyone is in Heritage, they can count this as a cultural event to review.” Alford suggests that some sororities may count this as part of their academic requirement.

The symposium starts Friday in AC 215 at 12:30 p.m.