English Department Presents at 2023 Rachel Carson Conference

University Communications & Marketing | 11/01/2023

Rachel Carson Conference Attendees

Pictured in Attached Photo:

(L-R) Dr. Timothy Bintrim, Dr. Brennan Thomas, Miss Sydney Beunier-Lucas, Avery Beunier-Lucas, Erin Pyle, Colette Costlow, M.J. Dugery, Michael Hickey, and Dr. John Woznak at the 2023 Rachel Carson Conference at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. (Not pictured, Dr. Lisa Beiswenger)

On October 21, 2023, four English faculty—Drs. Lisa Beiswenger, Timothy Bintrim, Brennan Thomas, and John Woznak—and five English majors—Avery Beunier-Lucas, Colette Costlow, MJ Dugery, Michael Hickey, and Erin Pyle—presented scholarly research on literary, environmental, and media studies at the 2023 Rachel Carson Conference, hosted by Chatham University. The theme of this conference was “Facing the Horrors,” with conference presenters being asked to address how horror relates to environmental concerns and narratives in literature and other media.

Dr. John Woznak, Professor of English, was the first SFU faculty member to present. His paper, titled “Billy Joel, Fall Out Boy, and Critical Theory: Facing the Horrors of the Human Heart,” analyzed Billy Joel’s 1989 and Fall Out Boy’s 2023 versions of the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” from several literary theory frameworks, including reader-response theory and formalism. Dr. Woznak’s presentation featured contributions from the five student presenters, who had composed sections of the presentation as part of their coursework for LIT 407: Principles of Literary Research, Theory, and Practice.

The second SFU faculty presenter was Dr. Lisa Beiswenger, Assistant Professor of English. Her presentation, “Trash Class: Studying the Waste Cycle of a University Student Union,” focused on the University of Akron’s efforts to recycle waste produced from a single campus building. Dr. Beiswenger showed graphs, tables, and diagrams detailing the amount of discarded food and other organic waste from this one location in 24 hours. She also played a short news clip of her team’s efforts to sift through garbage for recyclable materials.

Following Dr. Beiswenger was Dr. Timothy Bintrim, Professor of English, who examined similar themes of sustainability and ecological responsibility in his presentation “Timothy Treadwell Died For Our Sins: Wildness, Enforced Humility, and the Ethics of Filming Grizzlies.” Dr. Bintrim analyzed the ecological motives and impact of self-stylized wildlife filmmaker Timothy Treadwell—a.k.a., Grizzly Man—whose efforts to film wild Kodiak bears in Katmai National Park ended tragically in 2003 when he and his girlfriend were attacked and killed by a bear prowling their campsite.

The group then attended lunch and a research presentation by the conference’s keynote speaker, Jihyeon Choi, a Research Fellow in Co-Research Coop (South Korea) and Visiting Scholar for the Women’s Institute at Chatham University.

Panel presentations resumed in the early afternoon. The last SFU presenter was Dr. Brennan Thomas, Professor of English, who closed out the conference’s final concurrent session with her presentation “‘Witches in Days Gone By’: Displacing the Safe and Predictable in The Blair Witch Project.” For her presentation, Dr. Thomas utilized the Gestalt principles of similarity, common region, and closure to explain the 1999 blockbuster’s impact on the found-footage horror genre. All presentations were well attended and received by conference attendees, and the presenters were asked multiple follow-up questions about their current projects and plans for further research. To learn more about the group’s conference experience, please visit the Rachel Carson Conference’s website at https://rachel-carson-conference.squarespace.com/.