MAIS student Jessica Waddle presented a paper at the annual Arkansas Philological Association (APA) conference last week. The conference was organized by UA Little Rock’s English department this year, and was held at the Arkansas Studies Institute.
Jessica Waddle is a first-year MAIS student who is studying English and Psychology. Her presentation on Friday, October 27th was entitled “The Death of Religion and Morality in Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying”. The following is the abstract to Jessica’s presentation:
“In Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying (1993), Gaines brings into question the delicate and, at times, compromising balance between religious ideology and institutional logic in the fictional world of the pre-Civil Rights community of Bayonne, Louisiana. A Lesson Before Dying demonstrates these opposing ideologies through the multifaceted relationship between Grant Wiggins, a Black teacher, and Jefferson, a Black man accused of murder. Though secondary characters in Gaines’ novel force Grant into what mimics a teacher-student relationship with Jefferson, Grant is also forced to evaluate his own ethics and principles. Gaines chooses to emotionally provoke his readers through Jefferson’s prosecution, as Gaines unmasks the dehumanization of Jefferson’s character by the seemingly religious white and Black members of Bayonne. Jefferson’s fate rests in the hands of a jury of twelve, “good and true” white men who reduce him to nothing more than an animal incapable of discerning right from wrong. It is in this moment that Jefferson loses his credibility as an ethical human being, and transitions into a soul that requires redemption in the eyes of his peers.”
The Arkansas Philological Association’s 2017 conference included papers and presentations from students and professors, and explored the modes and methods by which scholars interpret literature. Papers included -but were not limited to- critical, and creative approaches to literature, creative writing, rhetorical analysis and language.