Symposium: Jamie Harker’s The Lesbian South

Harker speaking with enthusiasm to an audience member at her symposium.

Many of the best-received symposium at the University of Tampa offer something new and fascinating for students to explore alongside an expert in any given field. Of a plethora of rarely discussed topics, southern lesbian feminism was definitely something that few knew much, if anything, about. Yet Jamie Harker, author of The Lesbian South, offered the information with such experience, enthusiasm, and intrigue that most attendees left the talk with an altered perspective. Harker presented her findings on the southern subculture of lesbian feminist literature with vigor and passion. Fellow literary figure Trysh Travis describe her landmark scholarship below:


The fact that she writes not only with insight but also with genuine affection is sweet icing on a delicious—and much needed—cake.


If you happened to miss the symposium presentation you can still find her book The Lesbian South: Southern Feminists, the Women in Print Movement, and the Queer Literary Canon here.

Symposium: Mario Chard’s Land of Fire

Mario Chard discussing his flagstone book, Land of Fire

Born in Utah to an Argentinian immigrant mother and American father, author Mario Chard offers a unique and fascinating perspective on a variety of things. This becomes clear as you leaf through passages of his poetry, each more gritty and moving than the last. Land of Fire, his greatest work, has won a variety of notable accolades, from Tupelo Press’s 2016 Dorset Prize to Boston Review’s Discovery Poetry Award. The University of Tampa had the honor to host Chard recently, and students enjoyed a poetry reading and presentation from the author himself. The various Honors Symposia give students the opportunity to remain on the cutting edge of notable authors and scholars alike, many of them among the greats just as Mario Chard is.

Timothy M. Smith Award Recipient: Noah K. Oakley

Noah K. Oakley presenting at his symposium on January 27th, 2019

Timothy M. Smith lived his life yearning for the next horizon, always visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. His namesake award allows UT students to do just that: visit any place of their heart’s desire and research their passions. Noah Oakley was one such recipient and used his grant to travel to Lisbon, Portugal. He recently presented a symposium on his findings. See his statement below:

Portugal was not only full of myths and legends I had previous experience with, but full of stories surrounding our current issues of human rights. My initial research question going over to Portugal was to look at LGBTQIA+ culture. While I was there a law was actually passed for Gender Determination, meaning that individuals over 18 don’t have to have doctor or guardian approval to legally change their gender. What an amazing law for transgender individuals! While there, I talked with volunteers at Centro LGBT, a community center dedicated to providing resources and a safe space to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a queer person, it is always amazing for me to hear how other people around the world are fighting for our right to exist.

I also had plans to study gay Portuguese poets, however, I had a huge difficulty finding the texts I wanted. This was due to the Estado Novo, a fascist regime controlling Portugal from 1933 to 1974. During the regime, many aspects of life were censored, including works by the authors I had planned to study. Discovering this, a majority of my time in Portugal ended up being spent looking into this dictatorship. At the Aljube Museum of Resistance and Freedom, I learned all about the oppressive tactics the state and it’s police force instituted, and how fear was bred in the citizens. Eventually, citizens led a coup that overthrew the government. Learning about how people rose up against the regime was truly inspiring, especially when coupled with my talks with those people at Centro LGBT. These stories are ones that don’t always get told, and that’s why I wanted to focus on these items for my symposium. Stories are so important, and it’s up to us to always try and find out more stories so that way we can each rise up and provide a better future, for us and those to come. I can’t thank Lisbon enough for showing me this.

Coffee Conversation: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender?

Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Dr. David Gudelunas, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa, led a coffee conversation on Thursday on the disruptive possibilities of drag culture. Coffee conversations ask students to participate in a dialogue rather than listen to a lecture; this one was organized around the question: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender? As part of this event, students talked about much more than just drag, addressing issues such as “Who taught you to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘behave like a boy,’ and what were you taught that means?” They debated whether or not shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race reified, challenged, or complicated gendered expectations.

Dr. Gudelunas leading a discussion on drag culture.

Dr. Gudelunas researches in the areas of emerging media technologies, gender, sexuality, and communication. He is a widely published scholar and the author of “Confidential to America: Newspaper Advice Columns and Sexual Education” and co-editor of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture (Palgrave). Gudelunas serves on the editorial boards of Sexuality & Culture and QED and has appeared in local and national media including MSNBC, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

Symposium: When Rap Spoke Straight to God

Dr. Erica Dawson addressing the crowd during her February 7th Symposium

“Fearless” is a word that comes to mind for many when discussing the style in which UT Professor Dr. Erica Dawson writes. She is forward and unabashed, and that translated into When Rap Spoke Straight to Godher newest book of poetry. Dr. Dawson took the time to share her perspective and passion with Honors students in a recent symposium, in which she read excerpts from her novel and elaborated on her motivations to create it. When Rap Spoke Straight to God covers everything from the impact of the Trump administration to her experiences as a black women. Dr. Dawson walks a line between eloquence and conflict, to draw the attention of readers and listeners. Professors like Dr. Dawson inspire UT students to create art out of experience in a profound way.