English Literature Essay Competition 2016

About the Contest

Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest for students in grades 4-12. Students are asked to read a book, poem or speech and write to the author (living or dead) about how the book affected them personally. Letters are judged on state and national levels. Tens of thousands of students from across the country enter Letters About Literature each year. If you are in grades 4-12, you are eligible to enter the Letters About Literature reading and writing contest.

The 2017-18 Letters About Literature contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries and other organizations.

For more information, select your state:

Dear Lisa Genova:

...Your book helped me understand what is happening with my grandma. I realized that it’s not her fault at all that she can’t remember things. There would be nothing that Alice or my grandma could have done to prevent their memory loss. It’s a tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. I understand now my grandma’s every day struggles and try to help her as much as I can. Your book taught me to be patient and enjoy every day with my grandma. I try to spend as much time with her as I can now. I praise her for things that she can still do and remember...

Mark Leschinsky
Mahwah, New Jersey
2017 National Honor Award Winner – Level 1

Recognizing Exceptional Writers

The Department of English is host to many gifted student writers, both from the undergraduate and the graduate programs. Thanks to the generosity of more than a few Cornell alumni, annual prizes are awarded for outstanding work in poetry, fiction and critical writing. Please visit the 2016-2017 Awardees List, to view names of previous winners.

Application Instructions

  • Applicant must be a currently registered Cornell student (in the case of the Guilford Prize current or former Cornell graduate students are eligible to apply, see below for details).
  • Submissions will be accepted in electronic form only.
  • Only one submission is required when applying for poetry prizes.
  • Manuscript lengths must adhere to the specifications described for each prize below.
  • Applicant’s name SHOULD NOT APPEAR anywhere on the manuscript (committee review is anonymous).
  • Email the following information along with your manuscript to Vicky Brevetti in the Department of English (vlb3@cornell.edu):

-Name of prize(s) to which applicant is applying
-Applicant’s full name
-Applicant’s student status (graduate or undergraduate)
-Applicant’s Cornell NetID
-Applicant’s year (example: sophmore, junior, 2nd year grad., etc.)
-Applicant’s expected graduation date
-Applicant’s college
-Applicant’s major
-Title of manuscript

Creative Writing Prizes


Corson-Browning Poetry Prize

  • Established 1902 by Cornell Professor Hiram Corson, professor of Anglo-Saxon literature and theorist of Robert Browning
  • Open to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Maximum length of entries: no more than 10 pages of poetry

Robert Chasen Memorial Poetry Prize

  • Established in 1980 by Margaret Rosenzweig ’32, in his memory
  • Open to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Maximum length of entries: no more than 10 pages of poetry

Dorothy Sugarman Poetry Prize

  • Established in 1978 by Hyman Yudewitz ’28
  • Open to undergraduate students
  • Maximum length of entries: no more than 10 pages of poetry

Arthur Lynn Andrews Award for Fiction

  • Established in 1965 by the late Harriet Cousens Andrews, in his memory
  • Open to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Awarded to the top entry from each group
  • Maximum length of entries: not to exceed 10,000 words

The George Harmon Coxe Award in Creative Writing (not available in 2018)
*Please Note: submissions for the poetry prizes and/or the Andrews Prize will also be considered for the Coxe Prize.

  • Established in 1951 by Mr. and Mrs. George H. Coxe in memory of their son who was a student at Cornell University
  • Awarded in odd years for the best entry in creative writing by a sophomore, junior, or senior. 
  • Maximum length of entries: Poetry submissions: no more than 10 pages of poetry. Fiction submissions: a story, group of stories or a selection from a larger work, not to exceed 10,000 words.

Essay Prizes

Only one submission permitted per prize competition.

The Guilford Essay Prize

  • Established in 1988 in memory of J. P. Guilford ’21
  • Given to a doctoral student in any field whose thesis is judged to display the highest excellence in English prose
  • Students are encouraged to submit their own dissertations, and faculty members are invited to draw this opportunity to their attention.
  • Dissertations submitted for degrees during the calendar year in which the prize is awarded will be accepted as entries, as well as dissertations submitted for degrees conferred during the previous calendar year.
  • The copy submitted for this prize need not conform to Graduate School filing standards, but may instead follow the normal standards for term papers.

The Moses Coit Tyler Essay Prize

  • Established in 1936 by William Austen in his honor
  • Awarded for the best essay by a graduate or undergraduate student in the field of American history, literature, or folklore
  • Preferred essay format: 30-40 pages in length

The Barnes Shakespeare Essay Prize

  • Established in 1887 by Mrs. Alfred Smith Barnes in memory of Alfred Smith Barnes, founder of Barnes Hall
  • Awarded each year for the best essay on Shakespeare written by an undergraduate
  • Previous winners are not eligible and students may submit no more than one essay in any year
  • Maximum length of entries: not to exceed 8,000 words

The George Harmon Coxe Award in American Literature

  • Established in 1951 by Mr. and Mrs. George H. Coxe in memory of their son who was a student at Cornell University.
  • Awarded in even years for the best entry in the study of American Literature by a sophomore, junior, or senior
  • Two prizes will be awarded
  • Maximum length of entries: none
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