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Winners of the Dr Greg Wells Undergraduate Essay Prizes, 2018

At the summer graduation of July 2018 the CSR awarded for the second time its Greg Wells Prizes for the best undergraduate intermediate-year and final-year essays and dissertation. We received 10 (pre-selected) entries. Dr Alex Lee, Dr Estelle Paranque, Dr Felicita Tramontana, and Dr Bobby Xinyue kindly acted as the independent adjudicators of the anonymised pieces, for which we are most grateful.

The winning essays were:

Intermediate year essay, Flavia Palieri (Hispanic Studies), ‘Discuss the relationship between love and social boundaries in Cervantes’s “La española inglesa”’. The adjudicators in this category said,

“This is a very well written essay with a clear structure and a strong analysis. The candidate has chosen to leave the original text in Spanish when quoting from Spanish sources without providing any translations. While I am pleased to say that I can read Spanish and this did not pose a problem while reading the essay, I think that translations should have been provided. Indeed, not understanding some paragraphs in the essay would have taken away importance analytical parts. However, it is important to insist that the candidate offers a strong analysis of the social and economic context of the period as well as closely examining the rhetoric of the text. The candidate has also shown great command of the historiography. In all, this essay offers a fresh and innovative study of the novel, including the importance of identity during the early modern period. This is a very strong essay which deserves to be winning the Greg Well UG Writing Prize 2018 and embodies the interdisciplinary purpose of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance.”

Final year essay, Annie Khabaza (English Department), ‘What was Richard Stanihurst trying to achieve in his translation of the first four books of the Aeneid?’ The adjudicators in this category said,

“This is a highly original piece of work, which uses an analysis of Richard Stanihurst’s neologisms to argue that his Aeneid was a forward-looking attempt to redefine what English literature should be, and that, in doing so, it drew on Anglo-Irish lexical norms. As such, this essay succeeds in challenging the view that Stanihurst’s translation was nothing more than a vain, anachronistic effort to prove that English poetry could obey the rules of classical prosody. Clearly structured and subtly argued, this essay offers a sophisticated engagement with both primary and secondary material, and is written in a vivid and persuasive style. It handles some tricky concepts with consummate skill, and manages to locate Stanihurst’s work within a much broader cultural and historical context. The candidate deserves particular praise for her/his imaginative choice of evidence and methodology. It is rare to find such an innovative approach in an undergraduate essay and holds out tremendous promise for the future.”

Final year dissertation, Joshua Rushton (History Department), ‘The Inquisition, the Witch, and the Would-Be Saint: Defining the Boundaries of Female Piety in Counter-Reformation Venice.’ The adjudicators in this category said,

“This dissertation demonstrates an outstanding level of subject knowledge, critical acumen, and stylistic finesse. The author examines the increased and systematic inquisitorial prosecution of women on charges of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘pretence of sanctity’ during the Counter-Reformation, and places this investigation in the broader context of the activities of the Venetian Holy Office in the post-Tridentine period. Through two detailed and persuasive case studies, this dissertation demonstrates powerfully that women’s conventional paths to spiritual authority – through the ‘magic’ of popular religion and aspirations of sanctity – came into direct conflict in the second half of the sixteenth century with the Counter-Reformation Church’s increasing concern to define the boundaries of the piety amongst the Catholic laity, and that consequently the Church criminalised women with unprecedented fervour. The author shows excellent knowledge of the socio-political context, and critically engages with an extensive range of secondary scholarship in a well-disposed manner. Moreover, the author exhibits in the two case studies a commendable ability to analyse, unpack, and interpret afresh a number of difficult primary sources (such as the inquisitorial trial dossiers). Above all, by choosing to focus on the female experience during the Counter-Reformation, this study has shown an admirable attentiveness to the current diversity and future trends of Renaissance studies. In short, this is a superb piece of writing worthy of formal recognition of academic excellence.”