Undergraduate Forum

The Annual Convention annually features a separate Undergraduate Research Forum in the form of poster presentations. Students are invited to give 3- to 5-minute presentations on their research followed by a networking event. This is an opportunity for aspiring scholars to discuss their research with peers, graduate students and faculty, and to be awarded prizes by NeMLA's various constituencies. Join us and vote for your favorite presentations and posters!

Undergraduate forum Boston 2020.


Call for Abstracts

Submit here or to the links below a 300-word abstract, a bibliography, and 100-word bio by November 15. Samples of successful abstracts follow. Students can receive mentorship on writing and structuring their presentations.



Students should present clear and innovative arguments that put their unique insights in conversation with existing scholarship (secondary sources). In keeping with the conference theme, this forum explores how literary works, film, languages, and cultures influence and challenge traditional notions of space, identity, and history. Possible approaches include:

                •  Culture and the formation of identity (one culture or in a multicultural context)

                •  Relationship between language and identity

                •  Creation of new identities

                •  Literature and identity

                •  Gender, sexuality, and identity

                •  Evolution of identity over time

                •  Place and/or borders and identity

                •  Formation of community identity

Accepted students will be notified by early December and can receive mentorship on writing and structuring their presentations. For questions and further details, please contact Jennifer Mdurvwa at Undergradforum@nemla.org.

Why NeMLA?

Undergraduates accepted to present receive

  • full access to conference events and workshops
  • opportunties to network with professors, graduate students, and peers in your chosen field
  • the opportunity to win prizes

Registration is $75 for undergraduate students, and the membership fee is waived. Submit an abstract here by clicking on the session of interest. To register, create a username account or log into a preexisting account.

Networking Event

Following the Undergraduate Forum, please join us for an event allowing our undergraduate student members to network with faculty and graduate students in their field of study and to practice discussing their research and aspirations for graduate study in a professional setting.

Sample Abstracts

The Paradoxical Nature of Women Travel Writers: Transcending & Reinforcing Boundaries

This presentation will analyze the paradoxical experience of female German travel writers in the long 19th century, who were able to transcend gender boundaries through their travels but also reinforce stereotypes and entrenched ideas of other cultures in their writings. Through close readings of excerpts from Ida Pfeiffer’s Eine Frauenfahrt um die Welt and Ida von Hahn-Hahn’s Orientalische Briefe, I will analyze how the observations, actions, and language used by each woman are used to form her colonial identity. In particular, to what extent is she able to transcend the societal gender barriers of her time, and how do her interactions with and commentary on foreign peoples inform her identity? These women use the colonial sphere as a means to step outside conventional gender roles and form a hybridized individual identity, which is dependent on colonial ideas of Western dominance and superiority. As my reading of Wildenthal et al.’s article “The German Colonial Imagination” suggests, women who, like Pfeiffer and Hahn-Hahn, interacted in the colonial sphere were often champions of their own agency and autonomy, but did not extend this progressiveness to the native population. Hahn-Hahn and Pfeiffer’s writings about the foreign cultures and people they encounter largely focus on women, which appears to be both productive in forming their own identity and notably one-sided. Finally, I will examine these women’s writings in the context of Germany’s own unique colonial experience. The relative lateness of Germany’s colonial endeavor is significant in analyzing these narratives because German colonial consciousness informed beliefs about the colonial or Oriental “Other” long before Germany’s first physical colonies.

Across the Sea, Upon the Stage: Early Modern Depictions of Immigrants

The uptick in xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric by European and American leaders during the last decade has been mainly spurred by the horrific Syrian Civil War and the resulting influx of refugees and asylum seekers to European Union countries and the United States. But hostility towards refugees is certainly not new, nor is the public outcry against refugees simply a recent phenomenon spurred on by nationalist leaders. The roots of xenophobia may, as Stephen Greenblatt points out in a 2017 New Yorker article, be “quickened…by the same instinct that causes chimpanzees to try to destroy members of groups not their own,” an instinct of fear towards the other (July, 10th & 17th). Indeed, reactions against “alien” presences can be seen frequently in the history of literature, perhaps no more strikingly than the early modern drama Sir Thomas More, co-authored by William Shakespeare. That play opens with civilian riot, and was produced at a point when anti-immigrant tensions were alight in Elizabethan London, and the play was censored and probably never performed for fear of inciting further uprisings.

My presentation will focus on dramatic representations of xenophobia and immigrant experience during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. In particular, I will examine the boisterous genre of city comedy, including Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, in order to highlight how Early Modern Londoners viewed these “aliens” as both threats to their forming national identity and assets to the burgeoning mercantile community. I will also take into account how, within the genre of city comedy, these foreign subjects are most often heard about instead of heard from, since the great majority of authors within the early modern dramatic record are, of course, English natives.

Past Winners


Best Use of the Conference Theme

  • “Charlotte Brontë’s Juvenilia: Interpretations of African Land and European Presence,” Caroline Lunt, Colby College
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “India’s National Identity as an ‘Imagined Community:’ Magical Realism in Midnight’s Children,” Olivia Klein, Simmons College

Best Poster Determined by NeMLA Members

  • “My Guy Pretty Like a Girl: The Impact of Nonheteronormative Hip Hop on Urban Youth Identity,” Elia Agudo, Delaware State University
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Secondary Characters: Family Narratives between Autofiction and Memorialization,” Alejandra Mena Serranía, Brown University

Women’s & Gender Studies Caucus Most Compelling Research Award

  • “It Is Time to Stop Forgetting: The Reenactment of Women’s Trauma in Irish Literature,” Cara Mackenzie, Simmons College
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Patriarchy and Sexual Stasis in Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls Trilogy,” Matt Nilsen, University of Connecticut

Best Visual Presentation

  • “Dybbuks and Destruction: Explorations into a Yiddish Gothic,” Azariah Kurlantzick, Clark University
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Intimacy, or Friendship’: Sexual Identity in Victorian Vampire Fiction,” Riley Lampert, University at Buffalo

Best Oral Presentation

  • “Understanding the Role of Social Salience in the Dialectal Convergence of U.S. Spanish,” Andrew Fleming, Wesleyan University
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Workspaces for the Individual: Bloomsbury Rooms and American Office Design,” Ashely Fenstermaker Hunter College

Best Source Integration

  • “Oppression and Cultural Autonomy: Scalped and the Paradox of Owning Marginalization,” Chris Connors, University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Paratextual Manchuness: Translation and the (Re)Construction of Identity,” Elvin Meng, Johns Hopkins University

Best Use of Interdisciplinary

  • Zola et la Genèse de la Contagion: Women as Purveyors of Disease in Nana and Le Docteur Pascal,” Kaetlyn Arant, Amherst College
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Language Policy and the Integration of Alliance Israélite Universelle Schools into Thracian Society,” Sophie Call, Wellesley College
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Eugenics in the United States from the 1900s-1970s,” Jose-Romarah Chery, University at Buffalo

Best Poster Determined by the NeMLA Board

  • “Censorship and Identity in 17th-century New England and New Spain,” Amanda Judah, Boston College
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “The American Melting Pot: How Language Use on Twitter Builds the ‘--- American’ Identity,” Parker Chase, University at Buffalo

Best Poster Determined by Exhibitors

  • “Queen Elissa: The Roman Adaptation of a Carthaginian Deity,” Jake Pawlush, University at Buffalo
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “My Own Body a Banquet: Dracula and the Necromancy of Appetite,” Kit Pyne-Jaeger, Cornell University


  • Megan Conley, University of Maryland College Park
  • Leah Headley, Hendrix College
  • Alicia Maners, Harding University
  • Emma Scheve, University of Portland
  • Qingyang Zhou, University of Pennsylvania


Jennifer Mdurvwa, Undergradforum@nemla.org