Campus & Community

Undergraduate essay contest on ‘Literature that Changed My Life’

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The Cultural Agents Initiative, the Office of the Dean for the Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Harvard University Press have announced an undergraduate essay contest to explore the impact of literature on individual lives.

“Students from all academic disciplines are invited to enter the contest,” said Doris Sommer, director of the Cultural Agents Initiative. “I would venture that all students, regardless of their academic focus, have been moved and provoked by a work of fiction, a poem, or a play. Creative writing explores experiences and perceptions, so that literature is often an adventure. It is not so much a distraction as a stretch of the imagination.”

Entries will be judged by a diverse panel selected by the dean of the humanities and the Cultural Agents Initiative, consisting ofa specialists in the humanities and beyond. For the first contest, the panel of judges will be headed by John Stauffer, professor of English and American literature and language and African and African American studies. The other judges on the panel are David Edwards, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering; Judith Ryan, Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature; and Doris Sommer. In future years, students will also form part of the judging panel.

The author of the winning essay will receive a prize of $500 worth of Harvard University Press books.

Students interested in entering the contest should submit an essay of less than 600 words to Case Kearns, Literature Essay Contest, Department of English, 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 16. The winner and finalists will be announced on April 2.

– Ryan Z. Cortazar