I've always found it interesting to see how an author's explanation of a text is different from the way he or she writes. This was definitely the case for the English Symposium session I attended.
I chose to attend a session on Puritan Society because of the student journal (Criterion) that I volunteer on. This semester, I have been working to help publish a paper and I was fortunate enough to attend the author's presentation at the symposium. His topic was about the Trial of Anne Hutchinson.
The paper argued that Anne Hutchinson was convicted because she was seen as a threat, rather than the fact that she was a woman who advised men. The paper took a bit of work, but by the end of the editing process it was so much clearer and there was one central idea. By working with this author, I realized that many writers have the same problem I do: they know what they want to say but it becomes muddled when being turned into a paper.
Hearing this presentation at the symposium was awesome because the author followed the outline of his paper, but he was also able to step away from the paper and discuss more of the situation surrounding the trial (something he couldn't do in his paper because it was much too long). As he presented, the ideas were clear and if they weren't, the presenter could tell by the looks that other students gave him and he was able to adapt. That is one thing I wish papers could do: realize when the reader doesn't understand. As the author was speaking, he could tell when his arguments didn't seem to translate and so he was able to explain them or develop them more fully. It was nice.
In the end, I don't think I agree with his argument. I think gender did play a part in the trial of Anne Hutchinson. But, my opinion versus the author's doesn't exactly matter. What matters is what I realized during the presentation. I realized that words don't always translate to paper the way we want them to. I also realized that the best way to fix this is to discuss your ideas with another person. You learn more when you explain an idea to another person because you can expand your ideas more and you have more time to come to that conclusion. So, as hard as it is trying to get enthusiasts opinions on our papers, it really does help.