English symposium traces hope across boundaries

Manuel Muñoz in a blue denim jacket and left hand in his hair. Photo by Manuel Muñoz

By Manuel Farias, M.A. English graduate student

Author and Central Valley native Manuel Muñoz will deliver the keynote address for Fresno State’s sixth annual Students of English Studies Association symposium on December 8 and 9. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Transcending Boundaries: Finding Hope in the Now.”

Muñoz’s keynote — which will include a reading from his new story collection, “The Consequences,” published by Graywolf Press — is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, in Conley Art Auditorium (CA 101) on campus. Admission is free and open to the community, with a book signing and reception to follow. Parking is free in Lot P5. An online broadcast will also be available on Zoom.

Book cover of "The Consequences Stories" by Manuel Muñoz. Two feathers form a semi-circle on a black background with white and yellow text. Top text says "Manuel Muñoz is a great American writer who sees with his heart--as great as Juan Rulfo in writing about the poor. I with I had written these stories." - Sandra Cisneros.

English Department faculty frequently teach the works of Muñoz, who grew up in Dinuba and is now a professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona. His previous books include the story collections “Zigzagger” (Northwestern University Press, 2003) and “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” (Algonquin Books, 2007), and the novel “What You See in the Dark” (Algonquin Books, 2012).

Muñoz earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. His achievements include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts; three O. Henry awards; a Whiting Award; and an appearance in the Best American Short Stories anthology.

His writing spotlights the often marginalized and overlooked communities of the rural Central Valley. Stories in his new collection, “The Consequences,” are centered around sexuality, immigration, memory, and struggles within the Valley in the 1980s. [Read a recent interview with Muñoz about the new book in The Normal School magazine.]

Manuel Muñoz in a blue denim jacket and left hand in his hair. Photo by Manuel Muñoz
Manuel Muñoz – Photo by Manuel Muñoz

In addition to Muñoz’s appearance on campus, this year’s symposium will feature 10-panel sessions — including opening remarks from Dr. Honora Chapman, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities — from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on December 8, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on December 9. All 10-panel sessions will be online on Zoom, with pre-registration required. They are free and open to the community.

The full symposium schedule includes more than 25 graduate and undergraduate student scholars, with a number of them being international students. Panel presentations include:

  • Migrant Experiences and Politics;
  • Unraveling Gendered Structures within Oppressive Orders;
  • Deconstructing Dichotomies: Existing in Ambivalence;
  • Reclaiming Identities: Reshaping Narratives for the Future;
  • Breaking Tradition: A Feminist Examination of Silence;
  • Liberatory Functions of Sex;
  • Fighting Back: Studies of Oppressive Structures;
  • An Inclusive Tomorrow: Re-Imagining Current Systems;
  • Queer Bodies: Exploring and Navigating Liminality.

Fresno State’s Students of English Studies Association, or SESA, is a student organization in its sixth year. Its mission is to offer students in the humanities a chance to explore graduate opportunities in English studies. Organizers envision the symposium as a space for the community to enter into the world of academic conferences, which provides students with professional opportunities to present and talk about their scholarly work.

For more information, contact SESA co-presidents Julieta Ortiz and Mia De La Cerda at sesa.fresno@gmail.com or 559.278.1569.

English Department communication specialist Jefferson Beavers contributed to this report.

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