Undergraduate Forum

Marriott Downtown Philadelphia
Featuring a Networking Event
Abstracts due here by November 1, 2020

Scholars discuss their research. Photographer: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.

Photographer: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

The 52nd Annual Convention will once again feature the Undergraduate Research Forum! Students will give 3- to 5-minute presentations on their work during the Forum. Meet and converse with our aspiring scholars, read their research at your own leisure, then vote for your favorite presentation on our mobile app to award our newest scholars. 

A networking event will also be held. Join us for this event allowing undergraduates to network with faculty and graduate students in their field of study.

Call for Abstracts (Due November 1)

Submit to the links below a 300-word abstract, a bibliography, and 100-word bio by November 1, 2020. Samples of successful abstracts are below. Accepted students can receive mentorship on writing and structuring their presentations.

  • The Humanities and Other Disciplines: How can language/literature intersect with STEMM and/or the social sciences? How does this interdisciplinarity help us to better explain history, understand the present, and/or realize our future potential?   
  • Humanities in the World: How do the Humanities help us to interpret the world? How can the Humanities effect or create social, cultural, and political movements and changes? We encourage proposals on both past and present events.
  • Humanities through the Humanities: What makes a discipline part of the “Humanities?” How do these different disciplines intersect? How do different disciplines within the Humanities help us to answer the same questions and understand the world using different approaches?
  • Humanities and Language: What is the relationship between language and society? How does language construct thought? How does language shape the decisions we make and the actions we take?


The Undergraduate Forum hosts research from current undergraduate students. Students give present clear, innovative arguments that puts 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 arts-sciences@buffalo.edu.

Why Attend NeMLA as an Undergraduate Student?

Undergraduates accepted to present receive full access to conference events and workshops, with opportunties to network with professors and scholars in your chosen field. 

Registration is $75 for undergraduate students, and their membership fee is waived. To register, create an account at cfplist.com/nemla or log into your preexisting account.

Undergraduate Networking Event

Following the Undergraduate Forum, please join us for an event allowing undergraduates 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.

Examples of Successful 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.


Jennifer Mdurvwa, arts-sciences@buffalo.edu