Emory Elliott Memorial Prize Winners 2010

The judges were impressed with the range and quality of work submitted this year and observed that as news of the prize has spread, and a clearer understanding of our standards has become available, so there appeared to be a general increase in the standard of work submitted. Given the bias of The Literary Encyclopedia towards increasing historical understanding, they were particularly pleased to see so much originality of historical research in the submissions, albeit, as the prize winners indicate, this is not the only qualification for excellent work in the literary domain.

Where the First Prize is concerned, this was very much the case: the essay written by Fionnuala Barrett, of Trinity College Dublin, entitled “To what extent is it helpful to understand ‘A Modest Proposal’ as a reflection on Swift’s perception of his failure to effect real economic or political change by means of his Irish writings 1720-1728?”, is an extraordinarily well-informed and astute reading of Swift’s Irish Tracts in their historical and biographical context, which produces an entirely new and persuasive reading of “A Modest Proposal”. It is also written with elegance, concision and great argumentative force. Chapeau!

The Second Prize: goes to Beth Guilding of Goldsmiths College University of London, for her essay “What is the relationship, in the work of Blanchot and Derrida, between the limit of literature and the limit of death?”. Beth’s response to this question is distinguished by extraordinary poise, fluency, elegance and sharpness of thought whilst addressing brilliantly the very sophisticated demands of its topic. It was rare for some of the judges to find such pleasure in reading an essay of this kind. Bravo!

The Third Prize: goes to Roxanna Drayson, also of Goldsmiths College University of London [sorry about this, but the reading was blind], for her essay “A feminist appropriation of misogynist and patriarchal texts: Angela Carter’s ‘The Sadeian Woman’ and ‘The Bloody Chamber’”, which considers one of the most difficult aspects of this writer’s works, her interest in The Sadeian Woman and the representation of sexuality in her retelling of fairy-tales in The Bloody Chamber. Using Simone de Beauvoir’s appreciation of de Sade as a starting point, this essay addresses an issue of very considerable literary and cultural importance and produces a subtle and persuasive re-reading of Carter which goes against the grain of much recent commentary and struck the judges as resolving an important critical crux.

The judges would also wish to record that they find themselves making judgements of Solomon amongst the last five submissions, and therefore need to record two High Commendations:

Louisa McGillicuddy of University College London for her essay “Topside turvy in the womb: Obstetrical discourse in Tristram Shandy”. Her work offered a perfectly articulated and researched account of the obstetric knowledge in Tristram Shandy, which the judges greatly appreciated but which, in the final analysis, they felt lacked a conclusion offering a wider sense of the relevance of this theme to the novel as a whole.

Ari Hoffman of Harvard College for his essay “The Covering Cherub in Blake’s Prophetic Works” which offered an important new understanding of this symbol within Blake“s myth, and which should soon give rise to a research publication, but which the judges felt could have been more urgently worked and expressed and, as above, could have benefited from integration into a wider understanding.