On Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Archer School hosted its seventh annual "Literature &" Conference. What once began as a co-taught senior seminar for Archer students has become an annual day of literary presentations from local students with the goal of "challeng[ing] students to make connections, question preconceptions, and engage in purposeful dialogue about literature and its relevance to the larger world," in the words of Archer English Department chair, Kristin Taylor.
The "Literature &" faculty panel received more submissions than ever before and faced tough choices in selecting this year's presenters. After careful consideration, 26 presenters representing Archer and eight other local high schools, including Crossroads School in Santa Monica, were invited to the Archer campus to share their work. Archer welcomed over 60 guests to hear explorations of modern literature, captivating creative pieces, humorous interpretations of the literary canon, and fascinating connections between film and print. Their topics included Cabaret, Queer Theory, Hamlet, women in the Middle East, the automobile industry, social media, Fight Club, the Princess Bride, rock and roll, the Canterbury Tales and much, much more.
Pilgrim School's Lily Armstrong, who herself shared her comparison of rock and roll antiheroes to canonical protagonists, "was fascinated by everyone's perspectives, and the variety of pieces we had-- analytical, self-reflective, or somewhere in between."
At the beginning of the day, guests were reminded of the goal of the conference: not competition, but appreciation. The many submissions all stood out not just for their intriguing arguments but also for their fresh perspectives and formidable literary analysis. However, because Literature & does not have a winner, the environment is supportive, engaged, and enthusiastic.
The day was divided into six panels categorized by themes such as identity, perceptions and distortions, the role of the character in the story, and the nature of humanity. After the students on the panels shared their pieces, the moderators opened up the floor to questions from the audience. The panelists skillfully fielded probing questions about the inspirations and processes behind their pieces, alternative interpretations, and similar themes.
In addition to their fascinating critiques, explorations, and interpretations, this year’s Literature & presenters had charismatic, polished presentational skill. Brian Wogensen, an Archer English teacher, noted the "way these students pushed their analyses and creative pieces into uncharted and original territory with such vim and confidence, melding, for instance, post-modern theory with the Princess Bride or presenting a meditation on identity and loss in the form of a lab report.” Their arguments were both creative and well-prepared, captivating the audience at all times.
Grace Hamilton, a teacher at Polytechnic, sums up Literature &: "What an amazing experience for these young writers to gather together and appreciate each others' work and ideas. I look forward to Archer's Literature & Conference as one of my favorite events of the year."