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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

Seniors to present research on literary anti-heroes at QC next month, marking ten years of the Humanities Symposium

Students+present+at+the+first+Symposium+in+June+2015.
Yash Sharma
Students present at the first Symposium in June 2015.
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This spring, Townsend Harris seniors will be marking the tenth year of the Humanities Symposium, a yearly event that invites seniors in the Queens College bridge program to present original research on a literary topic. In addition to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the event, this year’s Symposium will feature research on the theme of literary anti-heroes, offer students a “Renaissance incentive” to earn prize money, and feature student presenters from three additional schools in Queens. 

Through a voting process, the class of 2024 chose “Exploring the Anti-Hero/ine” for their research focus this year. 

“The figure of the anti-hero/ine is a “non-hero,” or the antithesis of a traditional hero; whereas a conventional hero is typically marked by admirable qualities and capable of heroic deeds,” said Queens College Call for Papers (CFP) written (with a team of seniors) to invite students to apply to present their work at the Symposium. “We invite papers which interrogate the concept, figure, or trope of the anti-hero in relation to cultural norms, social expectations, identity and actions, behaviors and ethics, genre and literary structure, and more.”

Senior Maya Koniarz said that her group will be presenting at the Symposium. The group chose to study Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and aims to analyze the anti-hero theme as well as economic systems in the novel through a feminist literary perspective.

“Our team works really well together,” said Maya. “We’ve got a solid thesis, and we are looking forward to formulating our final presentation.”

Senior Afra Saiul’s group has been studying The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde throughout the semester. With all presentations limited to ten minutes, groups must decide what areas to focus on from their research.

“I’ve been rereading the thesis text and going over the other texts with my peers and making sure that we closely understand which parts of our paper we would specifically like to focus on for the symposium,” Afra said. 

It’s not only students from THHS who are getting ready, however. Last year marked the first time that a school in addition to Townsend Harris responded to the CFP, which led to students from Information Technology High School presenting at the 2023 Symposium. This year, in addition to Info Tech seniors planning to present again, students from William Cullen Bryant High School and Veritas Academy are also planning to present.

Another thing that sets the 2024 Symposium apart is a financial incentive courtesy of the Renaissance Society of America. Last June, Professor Clare Carroll, who helps oversee the Humanities Seminar program, emailed English teacher Brian Sweeney about a grant that the Renaissance Society offers to high schools that teach literature from the Renaissance. Mr. Sweeney, who helps organize the Symposium, applied for the grant and won it.

Mr. Sweeney told The Classic that he proposed encouraging seniors to incorporate research on Renaissance-era texts for their Symposium projects. Over 25 groups present at the event, and in the past, a panel of judges present cash prizes to a select few outstanding presentations. According to Mr. Sweeney, the Renaissance grant will enable the judges to offer money to groups that add a Renaissance component to their projects, adding to the overall money students stand to receive for catching the judges’ eyes.

“When we started the Symposium ten years ago, we were happy to be able to offer students any kind of prize to recognize their hard work,” Mr. Sweeney said. “This grant helps us make the Symposium even more special and offers students additional paths to earn recognition.” 

Senior Ali Jamja, whose group is studying A Clockwork Orange, said that it’s not just about the money.

“What motivates us instead is getting all our work done in a timely manner,” Ali said. He said he also feels that he has more guidance and support in improving and completing the project, which makes money even less of a driving factor.

Cash prizes or not, senior Hira Malik said, “Everyone takes pride in writing the best paper possible.”

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Katherine Lian
Katherine Lian, Multimedia Chief
Katherine Lian is a senior at Townsend High School who enjoys taking pictures, dancing, and trying new things. Her favorite memory with The Classic was her trip to Albany with her peers.
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