As Sigma Tau Delta approaches its centennial anniversary (1924-2024), its many facets reflect the state of English-related studies: in flux, in transition, flexible, fluid, evolving, tradition and convention absorbing influence and innovation. New subjects, authors and audiences, media, and concern are built upon a foundation of respect for history and the wisdom of predecessors while always in process of revising and renewing them for each succession of students and teachers.
The Centennial Convention will be a good time to reflect on the changes in culture and higher education in particular over these decades. In 1924 when Sigma Tau Delta was founded at Dakota Wesleyan University, the total number of students enrolled in higher education in the US, predominately affluent white men, was a little more than half a million (double the number from a decade before, according to the Higher Education Biennial Survey, 1922-1924 ). Today, that number is over 10.3 million, including a much wider range of the population (though many groups are still woefully underrepresented.)
Published that year were novels by Agatha Christie (Poirot Investigates), Edna Ferber (So Big) E. M. Forster (A Passage to India), Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain), and Edith Wharton; books of poetry by HD (Hilda Dolittle), A. A. Milne, Pablo Neruda, and W.B. Yeats; plays by Bertolt Brecht, Sean O’Casey (Juno and the Paycock), and Eugene O’Neill (Desire Under the Elms), and nonfiction by W. E. B. DuBois and H. G. Wells—and, ominously, Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf). Robert Frost received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for New Hampshire; and Leonard and Virginia Woolf moved their Hogarth Press to their new home in Bloomsbury. Perhaps signifying a transition from modernism to post-modernism, James Baldwin and Truman Capote were born; and Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka died. We expect that many presentations will explore the myriad ways in which the precursors inform and are transformed by their descendants.
It is appropriate that this Centennial Convention will be celebrated in St. Louis, a crossroads and river confluence, the “gateway to the west,” a meeting ground for Indigenous Nations since before European exploration. We will gather to share our stories, to meet new people and old friends, and to learn new ways of seeing.