Department of English

Graduate Prizes

Department prizes and awards offer students opportunities to be recognized for their extraordinary research and writing. New prize cycles are available each year.

Rebecca Summerhays Graduate Student Essay Prize

This prize is awarded annually to the best graduate student paper on any subject in literature and critical theory. The piece should be on the level of a publishable article, and no more than 35 pages. It should be double-spaced and conform to either MLA or Chicago styles. Papers already accepted for publication by journals at the time of the prize deadline are ineligible.

Graduate students must be actively enrolled in the Ph.D. program in English to be eligible to receive this award. Questions may be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies. 

A faculty committee will review submissions and award a prize of $500.

The application is now open. The deadline to submit your essay is Friday, April 5, 2024.


Rebecca Summerhays

Rebecca Summerhays passed away on April 28, 2022, at the age of 47. She was a remarkable, passionate, and compassionate person, who brought literature to light in thoroughly original ways. Rebecca earned her doctorate in English from Brown in 2011 with a brilliant dissertation entitled “Victorian Fiction and the Origins of Modern Feeling,” a study of the relationship between science and literature in the Victorian era, which examined how novels like Frankenstein and Jane Eyre understood the connections between feeling and the body, and how Victorian fiction illuminated the ways that people connected with each other when they could no longer be said to control their thoughts and feelings. After completing her Ph.D., she taught at Harvard and Wellesley College, teaching courses like “From Penelope’s Loom to the Pussy Hat: Women, Art, Craft, and Protest.” Those of us who were fortunate enough to have been in a class with Rebecca will surely remember her radiance and deep curiosity, the patience and care she brought to books and ideas, and the generosity and kindness she extended to everyone lucky enough to keep company with her. Rebecca wrote in her dissertation acknowledgments: “I do not subscribe to the stereotype of the solitary scholar, toiling away in darkness, obscurity, and isolation; my own experience with this project suggests that scholarship is instead the product of a ‘transpersonal’ community of minds.”

The Rebecca Summerhays Graduate Student Essay Prize was established in recognition of Rebecca’s enduring contribution to this community of minds, and in memory of her radiant being-in-the-world.

Rebecca Summerhays

Past Prize Winners

Nicholas Pisanelli, "Shameful Forms: Modernism and the Aesthetics of Obsolescence"

Suzy Kim, “Uncertain Pleasures: Gambling, Bildung, and Suspense in Daniel Deronda.”