Essay Awards

Undergraduate Essay Awards

The English Department awards prizes each year for excellence in critical writing. If one of your papers has earned an A in a 300-level English literature class, please consider submitting it to the essay prize competition! There’s also a special prize for the best paper written in English 298.

Bear in mind that you need not submit your paper to the prize competition in the same format that you submitted it for class. It’s always a good idea to revise the paper in response to your professor’s final comments, and it’s perfectly fine to consult with your professor, or with the NU Writing Place, during the revision process. It’s also fine to expand a bit beyond the confines of the original assignment. Most prize-winning papers are at least 7-8 pages long, simply because that format gives you more space in which to develop your ideas.

Finally, don’t forget to proofread! The prize committee won’t disqualify a paper for a single typographical error, but neither will it award a prize to a paper that contains multiple technical errors on each page.

The essay competition takes place each May, and welcomes papers written within the entire preceding calendar year – that is to say, during the preceding spring, summer, fall, and winter quarters. The department awards a number of prizes for general critical excellence as well as special prizes for essays in the following categories:

  • English literature
  • American literature
  • Anglophone literature (i.e., written in English outside the U.S. or Britain)
  • Literature written before 1830
  • Poetry
  • Theory and criticism
  • Psychoanalytic or psychological interpretation of a literary text
  • Research paper
  • Essay from Eng 298: Reading & Interpretation

Don’t worry about entering your essay in particular categories! The prize committee will automatically consider your submission in the categories for which it is most competitive.

The competition for 2015-16 will begin accepting entries in the Spring quarter.  The cover sheet will be available here at that time.

Information on past prize-winners, organized by year and by award, is available through the Annual Writing Competition page.