English Department Announces Prize Winners

Though students usually associate the English Department with memorable classes in Shakespeare and Steinbeck, the Department announced its annual cash prizes in poetry, analytical writing and fiction this past week.

Aube Rey Lescure ’11 won both the John Horne Burns Prize for Fiction, funded in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Lawrence Burns in memory of their son, John Horne Burns ’33, as well as the Charles C. Clough Essay Prize, funded in 1923 by friends of Charles C. Clough class of 1906 in memory of his interest in literary studies.

Ben Talarico ’11 won the Means Essay Prize which was funded in 1979 by William G. Means of Andover.

Edith Young ’11, Noel Um ’12 and Connie Cheng ’13 won the Charles Snow Burns Poetry Prize, funded in 1944 by Mrs. John P. O’Rourke in memory of her son, Lt. Charles Snow Burns ’41.

Apsara Iyer ’12 won the Goodhue Prize, which was first awarded in 1961. According to Randall Peffer, Instructor in English and one of the two judges of the Goodhue Prize submissions, the Goodhue Prize is awarded to a student who successfully demonstrates the ability to see the nuances of language, imagery, diction and syntax and the skill to articulate this vision through crisp, readable prose.

Paul Tortorella, Instructor in English, reviewed submissions for The John Horn Burns Prize for Fiction along with Lewis Robinson, Writer in Residence. In this year’s submissions, Tortorella saw “a great variety of form, structure and voice.”

“I see a movement away from plot toward voice,” said Tortorella.

Rey Lescure submitted a fictional story as well as an academic essay on post-modernism. For her fictional piece, she said she wrote a 17-page single-spaced story set before World War II in 1936 about a group of people on a transatlantic cruise ship. In her story, Rey Lescure said she used “a lot of different narrative voices and point of views.” She said the piece read “like a sociological piece” that she had originally written for her creative writing class with Robinson.

“I’m not a strict researcher, so I don’t really abide by the saying, ‘write about what you know.’ I just write about what I didn’t get to do in life or haven’t done yet… It’s just to let my imagination fly and I thought that the idea of being constricted on a boat and having to confront each other was an interesting concept that I wanted to explore,” she said.

According to Peffer, there were fewer submissions than the usual 15 to 18 submissions for the Goodhue Prize. Despite the slight drop in submissions, Peffer thought that “the overall quality of the submissions was the best” that he can remember.

Tortorella identified that there were both challenging and rewarding aspects of the judging process.

“It’s easy because if you enjoy reading and are interested in student writing, it’s a pleasure to read. That’s one of the reasons we do read. What’s difficult is to have to tell people whether they won or lost, because quite frankly, writing for contests, while you’re grateful that we have these opportunities to publicly honor the winner, it’s really about the process of writing. […] It’s not really about winning,” said Tortorella.

Peffer believes that one of the challenges in the judging process is “trying to distinguish between a number of exceedingly capable pieces of literary analysis.”

“In my experience, an engaging, knowledgeable and confident authorial voice often rises to the top,” he said.

Cash awards ranged from $50 to $200.