Essay Awards

Essay Awards

The Department of English is pleased to offer three undergraduate essay awards for outstanding writing in the field of literature.

Graduate essay awards:

  • Sarah Harkness Kirby Award

A. Kingsley Weatherhead Shakespeare Essay Prize

This offers a $300 award endowed by a generous gift from Gloria Lee in honor of her husband the late Robert Lee.

Previous winners:


Dori Mosman: "The Politics of Embarrassment in Shakespeare's First Sonnet Sequence," written for Professor Brent Dawson's ENG 436: Advanced Shakespeare


Colin Baxley: “'In Contempt of Man Brought Near to Beast': The Fragile Boundaries Between Animals and Humans in King Lear,” written for Brent Dawson’s ENG 436, Advanced Shakespeare.


Benni Rose: “Love as Immortal in the Sonnet 122 and in Antony and Cleopatra,” written for Brent Dawson’s ENG 436, Advanced Shakespeare.


Steven Richardson II: “Responses to the Influence of Hegemonic Culture in Shakespeare,” written for Erica Morton-Starner’s ENG 207: Shakespeare.


Alexandra Carthew: “Love and Servitude,” written for Lara Bovilsky’s ENG 208: Shakespeare.

Stephen Swig Essay Prize

Named for a distinguished alumnus of the department, this award recognizes an outstanding student essay on any subject. The winning essay is chosen from essays nominated by the English faculty. It comes with an award of $500.

Previous winners:

Spring 2018

Dori Mosman: "Interchangeable Johns and White Masculinity in the Pocahontas Franchise," written for Professor Kirby Brown's ENG 488: Race and Representation in Film: Native American Literature and Film.

Spring 2017

Erica Heim: “Reparative Reading and Cultural Tension of the Historical Narrative," written for Professor Brent Dawson’s ENG 469: Literature and Environment

Spring 2016

Colin Baxley: “‘Innumerable Clanging Wings’: The Three-Part Opening Sonnet of W. B. Yeats’s ‘The Tower,’” written for Mark Quigley’s ENG 407: St. Louis Seminar: W. B. Yeats & Seamus Heaney.

Spring 2015

Ian Stewart: “A Gift of Ice and Fire: Creation as Gift Exchange in the Prose Edda,” written for Stephanie Clark’s ENG 425: Age of Beowulf.

Winter 2015

Samantha Elwood: “The White Male Protagonist: Friend or Foe?” written for Kirby Brown’s ENG 488: Native American Literature and Film.

Spring 2014

Dylan Thompson: “Questioning the Ambivalent Politics of Andrew Marvel: An Exploration on the Authorship of ‘An Elegy Upon the Death of My Lord Francis Villieres,’” written for Ben Saunders’ ENG 440: Seventeenth-Century Poetry & Prose.

Kamiiya Williams: “Masking for Survival: The Broken Black Family and Generational Transfer of Masks in the Trueblood Episode,” written for Courtney Thorsson’s ENG 468: Contemporary Black Fiction.

Fall 2013

Samuel Rodgers: “The Performance of DuBois and Dunbar,” written for Courtney Thorsson’s ENG 360: African American Writers.

Spring 2013

The winner of the Stephen Swig Essay Prize for Spring Term 2013 is River Ramuglia for “Locating Malindy: Poetic Treatment of the Musical Creative Spirit,” written for Karen Ford’s African American Poetry and Poetics St. Louise Seminar in Poetry and Poetics.

Winter 2013

Martin Larson-Xu: “Means Something, Language of Flow: Music, Noise, and Conceptual Art in the ‘Sirens’ Episode of Ulysses,” written for Paul Peppis’s ENG 479: James Joyce.

Martin’s essay explores the musical manipulation of literary form inthe ‘Sirens’ episode of James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. Martin arguesthat, in ‘Sirens’, Joyce aspires to transcend the linear temporality of literary form by assuming the narratorial guise of pure form, or pure rhetorical style. To achieve this, his narrator explores words and sounds at the root level, manipulating these roots through rhetorical device with the goal of delivering a perception of sound in literature that escapes temporality. This foregrounding of rhetorical device also attempts to overcome the conceptual barriers between music and noise by breaking down the step by step mental process of reconceptualizing noise as music. Lastly, the episode’s engagement with the conceptual barriers between music and literature, noise and music, reflects a broader crisis of aesthetic value that occurred as popular commodity culture infiltrated the previously exclusive domain of “high” culture.

Thelma and Stanley Greenfield English Honors Thesis Prize

This awards $1,000 to the best English honors thesis from the year, named in honor of two of the English Department’s most beloved former Professors.

Previous winners:


No award given.


No award given.


Samuel Rodgers: “James Baldwin: Across Literary Forms,” a critical thesis written under the direction of Courtney Thorsson, Mark Whalan, and Casey Shoop.


Naduah Wheeler: “Sexy Skeletons: Literary Reclamation of Native Sexuality and Eroticism,” a critical thesis written under the direction of Quinn Miller and Kirby Brown.


Tucker Mollers: “Driving On,” a creative thesis written under the direction of Mary Elene Wood and Corbett E. Upton.