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Undergraduates present at international conference

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English major Kinsey Potter presented a paper at the international Martineau Society conference. Sociology major Jennifer Arzate and English professor Josie McQuail also presented papers at the conference.

Published Wednesday Oct 3, 2018

Two Tennessee Tech undergraduate students traveled to London over the summer to present papers at an international conference.

Kinsey Potter, an English major, and Jennifer Arzate, a sociology major, presented papers in July at the Martineau Society conference, which is named after Harriet Martineau and her brother, James.

“Dr. (Josie) McQuail actually brought up the opportunity our British Literature class,” Arzate said. “I thought being able to travel to London to present a paper to a room full of Ph.D.s would be a great story someday, so I just went for it.”

Harriet Martineau was a novelist who became famous in 1832 when she wrote “Illustration of Political Economy.” That consisted of 25 short stories showing how economic conditions impacted the lives of ordinary people in a variety of social environments. She toured America from 1834-1836 and identified with the anti-slavery movement.

Arzate spoke about how Harriet overcame gender oppression while Potter spoke about Martineau’s criticism of women and the rhetoric of shame.

McQuail, a professor of English, also spoke on women’s worth.

To prepare for her presentation, Arzate researched scholarly women and their impact on today’s literature and what gave them the opportunity to become writers themselves.

Potter discussed how women were shamed by their gender in Harriet’s day, similar to how Harriet was shamed by her deafness.

“She used her ‘shame’ of being deaf to empower herself,” Potter said. “She wrote many great pieces discussing her shame while also using her strength despite the disability to inspire the women of and beyond her time.”

The conference gave them the opportunity to make connections and have their works published in The Martineau Society magazine.

They have also been invited to next year’s conference.

“It was the trip of a lifetime, and researching Harriet Martineau really taught me a lot about myself,” Potter said. “Martineau taught me that I need to transform whatever shame that I have into an empowerment to be better and to show those around me that my gender, my mistakes and whatever else weighs me down does not define me.”

McQuail stayed in London longer to participate in the Aug. 12 dedication of a gravestone for acclaimed British poet, painter, author and printmaker William Blake.

She is the sole American on the Blake Society’s executive committee of trustees, a role she has served in for many years.

“There was a (grave) marker, but it was not a true gravestone that was suitable to his greatness and contribution,” McQuail said.

Blake passed away Aug. 12, 1827, at the age of 70. He was buried in an unmarked grave in a Dissenters’ graveyard, on top of several bodies and four others on top of his.

A few of Blake’s more famous works include “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” “The Four Zoas,” and “Jerusalem,” which is England’s unofficial anthem.

Blake was born in 1757 in London, where he spent most of his life. He attended Henry Pars’ drawing school and was later apprenticed to the engraver James Basire. As part of that apprenticeship, he made drawings and engravings of the monuments of Westminster Abbey.

No one knew the exact location of his grave, as the site had undergone many changes through the years. On the centennial of his death, the Blake Society erected a memorial stone that read “Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757-1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762-1831.”

That marker survived the damage of World War II and was moved from its location in 1965.

In 2006, two members of the Blake Society uncovered his exact burial location. After years of fundraising, the society marked the spot with an official memorial, with the dedication coinciding with the 191st anniversary of his death.

“Lida Cardozo (a British stonecutter) created the marker out of a slab of Portland stone,” McQuail said. “It is absolutely beautiful.” 

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