Aetna Graduate Writing Award

The Aetna Graduate Critical Writing Award, sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing, is an award for excellent critical nonfiction composed by a graduate student. Winners are awarded cash prizes and publicly recognized at the annual Aetna Celebration of Student Writing. *Please note that the 3rd annual ACSW has been canceled due to COVID-19 circumstances.

Submissions are now open for the 2020 contest. The deadline for submissions this year is APRIL 4, 2020. 

Eligibility: Any currently enrolled UConn graduate student of any department affiliation may apply.

Submission Criteria:

  • Any unpublished critical essay written for a course or independently. Dissertation chapters (or partial chapters) may be submitted. The essay may be under editorial review, but if accepted for publication elsewhere, it must be withdrawn from this contest.
  • Only ONE essay per student may be submitted per year/awards cycle.

Submission Instructions: 

  1. Download and complete the 2020 Aetna Graduate Writing Award Cover Sheet (updated deadline).
  2. Remove any student and instructor/advisor names from the paper (to remain anonymous for committee review). No identifying information should appear anywhere else in the essay.
  3. In place of your name, your PeopleSoft ID number should appear on every page of the paper.
  4. Include an abstract of 150 words on its own page.
  5. Only one Word document should be submitted that includes these components in this order: (1) this cover sheet, (2) the abstract page with the essay’s full title, and (3) your essay.
  6. Attach your submission as a Word document and email to The subject line of your email should be “Aetna Grad Writing Contest Submission.”

    We look forward to receiving your submissions. Good luck!


    Past Recipients

    • First Place: Anna Ziering, “The Novella as Virus: Masochistic Temporality and Utopian Possibility in Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs” (Instructors: Margaret Breen and Victoria Ford Smith)
    • Honorable Mention: Amanda M. Greenwell, “Aesthetic Resistance: Racist Visual Tropes and the Oppositional Gaze in Joel Christian Gill’s Tales of the Talented Tenth” (Instructor: Katharine Capshaw)
    • First Place: Daniel Graham, “More Wonderful Than ‘Table-Turning’ Ever Was: Spiritualism, Counterfeit, and the Commodity Fetish after the American Civil War” (Instructor: Chris Vials)
    • Honorable Mention: Kerry Carnahan, “‘Which one I dey?’: Ordinariness, Lack, and the Language of Testimony in Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy” (Instructor: Eleni Coundouriotis)
    • First Place: Eleanor Reeds, “The Human Dimension of ‘Telegraphic Orders’: Agency and Communication in Ruiz de Burton’s Who Would Have Thought It?
    • First Place: Rachel Nolan, “‘tween alepha and beta I’: Crossing Lines of Difference with M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!
    • Second Place: Maria Seger, “The Ethics of Child Murder: Maternal Filicide and American Exceptionalism in Women’s Progressive Era Short Fiction”
    • Third Place (tie): Joseph Darda, “Antiwar Absolution in Joseph Hiller’s Vietnam”
    • Third Place (tie): Alexander Gatten, “Beyond the Ghost: Katherine Philips and the Queerness of Close Reading”
    • Honorable Mention: Emma Burris-Janssen, “Violating Viola: Re-Membering Female Agency in Mona Carid’s ‘Marriage’ and The Wing of Azrael
    • First Place (tie): Joseph Darda, “Airport Memory: Recalling Vietnam from the Terminal in Andrew Pham’s Travel Writing”
    • First Place (tie): Jorge Santos, “Movement through the Borderlands: Graphic Revisions in Pablo’s Inferno
    • Third Place: Chad Jewett, “The Stuff Bores Me: Resistant Consumption and ‘The Culture Industry’ in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
    • Honorable Mention: Alaina Kaus, “Liberalities of Feeling: Free Market Subjectivities in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin
    • First Place: Maria Seger, “Ekphrasis and the Postmodern Slave Narrative: Reading the Maps of Edward P. Jones’s The Known World
    • Second Place: Emily Dolan, “Louisa May Alcott’s Behind a Mask and the Unrepentant Fallen Woman”
    • Third Place: Mary Isbell, “Not Simply Objects of Ridicule: Amateur Theatricals in Mansfield Park, Villette, and Daniel Deronda
    • First Place: Jeremy DeAngelo, “Walls of Troy, Walls of Asgaro: A Connection Between Snorri Sturluson’s Gylfaginning and Ovid’s Metamorphoses
    • Second Place: Leah Schwebel, “Redressing Griselda: Restoration Through Translation in Clerk’s Tale
    • Third Place: Pamela Swanigan, “Music as Facing-Page Translation in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet
    • Honorable Mention: Christiana Salah, “The Actress and the Governess: Sensation Fiction’s Spectrum of Female Identity”
    • Honorable Mention: Joanna Huckins, “Eald is bes eorosele: The Ancestral Landscape of The Wife’s Lament
    • Honorable Mention: Laila Khan, “Shell-shock and the Sublime: Re-writing Trauma Narrative in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
    • Honorable Mention:  Amber West, “Making a Troublemaker: Charlotte Charke’s Proto-Feminist Puppetry”
    • First Place: Pamela Longo
    • Second Place (tie): Brandon Hawk
    • Second Place (tie): Tara Harney
    • Fourth Place: Jeremy DeAngelo
    • Honorable Mention: Amanda Smith
    • Honorable Mention: Christina Henderson
    • First Place: Lindy Brady, “Echoes of a Celtic Fenland Frontier in the Old English Andreas
    • Second Place: Patricia Taylor, “Criminal Appropriations of Shakespeare in Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten
    • Third Place: Mandy Suhr-Sytsma, “In the Light of Reverence: American Legal Rights and Indigenous Responsibility”
    • Honorable Mention: Tara Harney, “Meditations on the Tyranny of the ‘Too Easy’ Fall”
    • First Place: Kisha Tracy, “Chaucerian Romance and the Temporality of Confession”
    • Second Place: Emily Wojcik, “A True Picture of Real Life: Tabitha Teeney’s Female Quixotism and the Emergent Realist Novel”
    • Third Place: Emily Dolan, “Portland, Maine: A Literary City”