The PSU English department hosted the 25th annual Victor J. Emmet Memorial Lecture and honored international lecturer and professor Judith Saunders with the award and honorarium.
Saunders won the honor and monetary prize by composing an essay and submitting it to the Midwest Quarterly, a journal of essays published regularly by Pittsburg State.
“I was just so honored by it,” Saunders said.
Her essay, “From Potency to Impotency: Sarah Kane’s play Blasted as a National Narrative,” was published in the Midwest Quarterly and earned her the honor to present a new lecture entitled, “The Anglo-American Special Relationship: Fact, Fiction, and Fantasy.”
“It was a wonderful opportunity,” Saunders said.
During her lecture presentation, she compared historical events between Great Britain and the United States with contemporary examples of literature, both academic and artistic.
“I was tasked with presenting a lecture, on a topic that I was passionate about, and of course, this I am passionate about,” she said.
Saunders was born in Britain but has lived in the United States for many years with her American husband Doug, a musician, and their cat Bruce.
“The special relationship seems more important in London than in Washington,” she said during her lecture presentation.
Saunders referenced many topics, giving special attention to politics.
“I think anything that brings (Pitt State students) outside their little comfort area or zone and introduces something else they hadn’t thought about is beneficial to all communication, international and within one country,” Saunders said. “It’s just part of being a complete human being.
During the lecture, she referenced “Stuff Happens” by David Hare, a history play written in response to the Iraq War, to demonstrate the “special relationship” within contemporary literature and its place in modern narrative media. The play uses a combination of documentary storytelling and dramatic elements, including creative liberty taken in the representation of former president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair’s relationship. She described the special relationship between America and Britain as “almost marital.”
“The play presents (Bush and Blair’s dealings) as a quasi-romantic partnership … Blair soon to be abandoned by an indifferent husband (Bush),” Saunders said.
Saunders currently teaches literature, critical thinking, and advanced English composition at Contra Costa College in northern California. Previous to teaching, she worked in Hollywood as a script supervisor for television and movies.
“Get as far as you can in academia, and explore the world and take a year off. Definitely take a year off, and do something else and come back.” Saunders said, giving advice to Pittsburg State students.
For students in attendance, many learned a variety of new information.
“I enjoyed hearing about the history of how the British went to different places …” Leah Nickel, junior in physical education, said.
Nickel received extra credit in her English composition class for attending the lecture and reception afterward.
“… (The lecture) not only gives Pitt State students the opportunity for bonus points but also lets them experience something that they wouldn’t normally hear,” Nickel said. “… It gives (English majors) an opportunity to hear something interesting and also improve their writing.”