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MA Student Wins Emerging Scholar Award at International Conference

Spanish MA student Marissa Luquette’s academic career gets a kick start from her innovative paper on gender in a Spanish sci-fi novel.

When Marissa Luquette (Spanish MA ’24) submitted her paper to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, she didn’t expect much. As a first-year MA student, this was her first time submitting a paper to a conference, and she admits that she was more than a little intimidated to suddenly be grouped with PhD students and professors presenting their own research.

But not only would her paper be accepted, it also would be recognized with the David G. Hartwell Emerging Scholar Award, and Luquette would officially be inducted into the world of academia.

Spanish graduate student Marissa Luquette

Luquette’s paper, “Jinetes de la tormenta: The Invasive Influence of Gender Constructs on the Journey Towards Selfhood and Societal Progress,” found its origin thanks to a book recommendation from Professor Dale Pratt (Spanish Science Fiction). Luquette says, “Dr. Pratt and I were chatting in his office one day after class, and knowing my interest in gender and women’s studies as well as science fiction, he said, ‘I want to talk to you about this book, Jinetes de la tormenta [Riders of the Storm], by a Spanish author, Javier Castañeda de la Torre. It’s really weird, no one has written about it yet, and you’re going to love it!’”

The book, a relatively unknown sci-fi novel released in 2019, turned out to be a good recommendation. “When I read this book, I was very deeply moved,” Luquette says. She began drafting a paper on it shortly after her meeting with Pratt. Inspired both by the novel and her literary theory course with Associate Professor Erik Larson (Latin American Literature and Critical Theory), she drew on the work of writers such as Hélène Cixous, Judith Butler, and Jacques Lacan to untangle themes of gendered binaries in language and the physical body.

Luquette’s paper explores how the narrative depicts the embodiment of gender and binaries in language and how this “places us into boxes, and these boxes motivate this emptiness which always leaves us feeling alienated from ourselves,” she says. In the paper, she argues that the novel depicts technology as a solution to alienation both in interpersonal dynamics as well as between an individual’s inner and outer selves.

Her paper fit right in at the conference, which is organized annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and described as “devoted to all aspects of the fantastic (broadly defined) as it appears in literature, film, and the other arts.” The award that she received, the David G. Hartwell Emerging Scholar Award, recognizes the best paper submitted by a graduate student (master’s or doctorate) at the conference.

Going to the conference itself, Luquette says, also turned out to be an enjoyable and enriching experience. “Before I went, I thought it was just going to be this very formal experience. Instead, it was totally different. It was lovely: everyone was so kind and genuinely interested in each other’s work, and I felt like my mind grew three sizes listening to all of these ideas that other people had.”

Luquette attributes much of her success to those who have helped her so far in her academic journey. She says, “I am very lucky to have the world’s best mentors. Dr. Pratt and Dr. Hegstrom have been an immense help to me over the years, shaping who I am as a scholar, teacher, and person. I owe all I have achieved to their selfless service and masterful guidance.”

Luquette advocates building relationships with professors—no matter where students are in their academic journey. “Your best allies and greatest supporters will always be your professors,” she continues. “I think it can be really intimidating, especially as an undergraduate, to approach a professor and talk to them about your interests, your dreams, and the things that you want. But they are so happy to be there for you.”