English Department Awards

Each spring, the department of English presents multiple prizes for the best student writing in drama, poetry, prose fiction, non-fictional prose, and critical essays analyzing literature. Prizes include monetary awards drawn from the generous gifts of many donors and are available to students at all levels, first-year undergraduate to graduate student.

The submission deadline for Spring 2019 is March 18, 2019. For further details, including submission guidelines, please see the appropriate links further down the page. Questions about our contests can be emailed to

Cornelison English  This prize is awarded annually to two English department graduate students for excellence demonstrated by an essay in literary criticism written for course work at Washington University. Essays may be nominated by professors or by student authors themselves; in the latter case, submissions must be accompanied by a brief message of support from the instructor of the course in which they originated. The first-place winner receives a cash prize of $2,500 and the second-place winner a prize of $1,500.

Carrie S. Galt Fiction  This award is sponsored by the Wednesday Club of St. Louis. It was established in memory of Carrie S. Galt by two of her grandchildren. Ms Galt was a writer and a graduate of Washington University. The contest, open only to graduate students, awards $200.

Dramatics Club of St. Louis  In 1929 this prize was established to encourage creative work in the study of dramatic literature.  The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students and awards two $1000 prizes.

Norma Lowry Memorial  This award was established by Mrs. Lowry's friends in 1963 to encourage student writing in poetry at Washington University. Mrs. Lowry, a poet, took a sustained and lively interest in poetry as practiced on the campus. The competition awards $150 to the undergraduate winner and  $150 to the graduate winner.

Academy of American Poets  This award is established at a college or university for a five-year term, at the end of which it may be renewed for another five years. Washington University students have benefited from this award since 1967. The Academy pledges $50 to each winner – graduate and undergraduate.

MFA Alumni Prize for a Novel-in-Progress This prize, established by faculty and alumni of the MFA Program and judged by the fiction faculty, is to be awarded to an MFA graduate student for excellence demonstrated by a novel in progress written while enrolled in the program. The award carries a prize of $250.

Roger Conant Hatch  Mr. Hatch received his Master's degree from Washington University in 1902. Under the terms of his will, money was designated for a University fund. A prize of $800 from the interest is to be awarded to the best undergraduate writer of lyric poetry.

Julia Viola McNeely Prize for Poetry  This award was established by Ms. McNeely's family to encourage poetry writing by the undergraduates of Washington University. Ms. McNeely, a Howard Nemerov writing scholar at Washington University, wrote lyric poetry with a spiritual dimension. The prize carries an award of $300 and is open to undergraduates.

James Merrill Prize for Poetry  This award was established in 1995 by the English Department to honor the memory of the poet James Merrill. Mr. Merrill, whose accolades include two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, was a good friend to the English Department and to Washington University, which holds a large collection of his papers. The competition, open to undergraduates, carries a $250 award.

Washington University Prize for Undergraduate Fiction  This award is sponsored by the graduate fiction workshop of Washington University’s Writing Program to celebrate the work of undergraduate fiction writers. The contest is open to any current undergraduate who would like to submit a work of short fiction and carries a prize of $100.

Harriet Schwenk Kluver   As encouragement to excellence in writing, Mrs. Kluver, a Washington University alumna, established prizes of $1000 to be awarded to each of two freshmen winners for a single piece of fiction, creative non-fiction, or critical prose composed in any of his or her classes, not simply in Freshman Composition.

F. Ward Denys  In 1921 the University established this prize to be awarded by the Department of English annually "to that student in the sophomore class who shows the greatest degree of general excellence in the required work in English" based on a single piece of critical prose. It carries a cash award of $250.

Leanna Boysko  This award, established in 1990 by Professor Emerita Bernetta Jackson in memory of former graduate student and English Department secretary Leanna Boysko, will be given annually for both the best essay of creative-non fiction and the best essay of critical prose written by a junior or senior for an English composition or an English literature class. The contest carries an award of $100 to each of the winners.

Andrea Goff Memorial Prize for Poetry  This prize was established by a former teacher of Andrea Goff, to honor her memory. The competition, open only to seniors, carries a $250 award.

The Howard Nemerov Prize in Poetry   This prize was established in 2013 by Professor Vincent Sherry.  It represents a recognition of the legacy of Howard Nemerov within the English Department, as reflected in the ongoing work of composing poems of superior quality at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The competition awards $250 to the undergraduate winner and $250 to the graduate winner.

The Dorothy Negri Prize   Awarded to the best writing in any mode or genre that advances our understanding of the relationship between humans and other animals, including but not limited to explorations of companion animal relationships, questions of animal rights and protections against endangerment/extinction, and analyses of linguistic and literary representations of animals. Competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate writers and carries a $100 award.

The Kathy Schneider Prize for Graduate Work  The prize honors Kathy Schneider, Advising and Student Record Coordinator for the Washington University English department from 2001 to 2014. Because Kathy fostered a healthy and supportive graduate student community, the prize is awarded to literature graduate students by literature​ graduate students for promising scholarly work that fosters lively and productive discussion in a workshop setting. Competition is open to participants in the Ph.D. Dissertation Workshop and carries a $300 award.  For more information on joining the Dissertation Workshop, please consult the Graduate Coordinator.

Departmental Award Rules

  1. All currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students in any division at Washington University may enter. Keep in mind work composed at the end of the previous Spring semester is eligible on the following terms: for example, work composed, and not previously submitted, by a Junior in a Spring 2017 class may be submitted for 2018 prizes that include or are limited to Juniors. 
  2. The deadline for entries is March 18, 2019.
  3. Submit using the online entry form.  If unable to do so, bring entries to the English Department Office, Duncker Hall, Room 116.
  4. One entry per contest per person – do not use same entry for more than one contest.
    Use 8.5x11 paper
    Use separate entry form for each contest.
    Do not put your name on the entry. (To ensure confidentiality, each entry is assigned a number.)
  5. Poems and stories published in periodicals other than student periodicals are ineligible. Poems and stories under consideration for publication are eligible.
  6. Winners will be notified via email.
  7. Email with any questions.

    Past Writing Award Winners

    2015 Winners

    Click here for a PDF of the 2015 English Department Award Winners.

    2014 Winners

    Click here for a PDF of the 2014 English Department Award Winners.

    2013 Winners

    Click here for a PDF of the 2013 English Department Contest Winners.

    2012 Winners

    Click here for a PDF of the 2012 English Department Contest Winners. 

    2011 Winners

    Click here for a PDF of the 2011 English Department Contest Winners. 

    2010 Winners


    2009 Winners

    Annah Borwning - Academy of American Poets, Graduate Student
    D. Haines Eason - Academy of American Poets, Graduate Student (Honorable Mention)
    Rebecca Estee - Academy of American Poets, Undergraduate Student
    Matthew Ampleman - Academy of American Poets, Undergraduate Student (Honorable Mention)
    Kathleen Shen - Boysko Senior Prize
    Melanie Mohn - Boysko Junior Prize
    Ashley Maher - Cornelison, First Place
    Jennifer Tate - Cornelison, Second Place
    Michael Dango - F. Ward Denys Prize
    Charles Cutler - Dramatics Club
    Colin Bassett - Carrie S. Galt Prize
    Eleanor Sarasohn - Andrea Goff Prize
    Eleanor Sarasohn - Roger Conant Hatch Prize
    Alec Hershman - Norma Lowry Prize, Graduate Student
    Eleanor Sarasohn - Norma Lowry Prize, Undergraduate Student
    Eleanor Sarasohn - Julia McNeely Prize
    Matthew Ampleman - James Merrill Prize

    Ready to Apply?

    Please read the award rules before submitting your work.

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