Symposium Writing Handout

A symposium is a collaborative experience in which each participant explores a different take on a unifying topic. The aim of a symposium is not only to discuss different approaches to a common theme but also to combine the knowledge conveyed in these approaches to construct an even better understanding of the unifying topic than would have been possible through individual research alone.

In ancient Rome, a symposium was an event at which citizens ate, drank, exchanged ideas, and even performed songs and dances for one another. Modern academic symposia maintain the spirit of sharing ideas and building knowledge (but usually skip the song and dance!).

A symposium is somewhat interdisciplinary in nature. Each presenter is meant to use his or her own approach, discipline, or perspective to tackle a common theme or topic. Each presenter does not necessarily have to write on the same topic, but rather connect what he or she writes to the common theme of the symposium. In doing so, the group as a whole will facilitate a discussion on the general theme that will raise questions that each individual may not have considered on their own.

As the symposium is most likely to be utilized in the MALS program, your presentation and those of your symposium group members will be intended to help generate ideas and questions that will help drive your own interdisciplinary research.