A passion for exploring literary theory led Saginaw Valley State University student Victoria Phelps to write a college essay recently honored as the top undergraduate paper presented at a conference for the Midwest chapters of Sigma Tau Delta, an English honors society.
Phelps, an English literature major from Rochester Hills, presented the paper at Western Illinois University in November. For winning the top undergraduate prize, Phelps earned a certificate, $100 and the curiosity of her peers in attendance.
"People came up to me after I won the award, asking me questions," said Phelps, vice president of SVSU's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. "It was great getting that kind of feedback from people. The people who came up to me were all interested in learning more."
Phelps' paper - originally written for an SVSU English course in the fall of 2016 - examined the 2015 Edwidge Danticat novel, "Untwine," about a sister's despair following the death of her identical twin. The paper, titled "Understanding Twin Loss and Grief in Danticat's Untwine," explored the character's loss as a form of mental amputation. That perspective aligned with Phelps' interest in examining literature dealing with disabilities, both physical and mental.
Phelps said it was valuable to speak to peers involved in other chapters of Sigma Tau Delta.
"One of the great things about the conference is meeting other people and learning from them," she said. "One of the really incredible things was being able to listen to others present on their papers. You learn a lot."
The conference appearance was Phelps' first experience presenting an essay in front of a crowd. But it won't be her last.
A member of SVSU's Honors Program, Phelps plans to present her Honors thesis at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts hosted in Orlando in March. Her paper is titled "Depictions of Disabilities Once Upon a Time: Analyzing Disabled Characters in the Context of Victorian Fairy Tales."
Phelps also plans to attend Sigma Tau Delta's international conference hosted in Cincinnati in March.
Phelps expects to graduate from SVSU in May 2018. She currently is applying to graduate schools offering master's degree programs in library information science.
"I want to work with serving the public in the library setting," Phelps said of her professional ambitions.
In addition to her academic work, Phelps has served as editor of SVSU's student arts and literature publication, Cardinal Sins, for three years. She also works as a tutor at SVSU's Writing Center and as a reporter with The Valley Vanguard, SVSU’s student newspaper.