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Humanities Writing Competition

Opportunity for Year 12 students to research & write beyond the curriculum

Humanities Writing Competition

This annual competition is an opportunity for students to research and write beyond the curriculum, using one or more of the Lawrence Room museum objects, as their focus. Essays or creative responses (such as dramatic monologues or short stories) are equally welcome. We are looking for the ability to connect different areas of knowledge, to think about details and to communicate clearly.

Open to: Students in Year 12 (or equivalent - S5/ Y13 - N.I) who have an interest in the Humanities. 

Prizes: Up to £200 cash and books to the value of £200 from Cambridge University Press, the latter to be shared between the winning entrant/s and their school/s. The prize fund may be divided between winning entrants.

Deadline for entries: 5pm, Friday 3rd March 2023

Previous competition information

The objects in the Lawrence Room that were chosen as starting points for this year’s competition were: a shabti funerary figurine from ancient Egypt; a wooden box that held kohl sticks for eye make-up, also from ancient Egypt; an unguentarium, a small glass flask made to hold perfume or medicinal products, from Roman-period Syria; a terracotta figurine of a pig, from Boeotia, made in the fourth century BC; and a bead necklace found in one of the early Anglo-Saxon graves in the grounds of Girton College. 

Yet again, the number of entries received was substantially up on last year’s total, so that being placed in this competition is a really meaningful achievement. All the objects inspired high-quality and interesting work: however, we did find, this year, that the majority of the leading entries latched on to the pottery pig. This tends to happen whenever we choose one of the Tanagra animal figurines in the Lawrence Room – they are so full of personality (as well as being so enigmatic).

Thanks to all the competitors for taking part. We apologize that we are unable to provide detailed feedback on individual essays, other than the winners’. 

First prize:

Henry Dinwiddy (Woodbridge School), for his essay ‘Purposing the Pig.

An exploration of the possible uses and contexts of the Greek terracotta pig and similar figurines. As a judge commented, ‘it reads like a proper scholarly article’, and shows signs of extensive research in the many comparative examples and illustrations that the author has found.

Second prize:

Imogen Taylor (Canford School) for her short story ‘The Pig’s Tale’.

A creative piece written from the pig’s point of view, narrating his journey from home to shrine to museum, showing a quirky sense of humour and also a real imaginative immersion in the world of classical myth. The judge commented, ‘I shall think of this story next time I see the pig’!

Third prize:

Carl Scandelius (Eton College), for his essay ‘Identifying the Role of the Shabti: The Relationship Between Servitude in the Realm of the Living and the Dead’.

Out of several good essays about the Egyptian shabti, this one stood out: a nuanced and interesting discussion of the developing nature and role of the shabti in burials, and how this may have reflected the organisation of Egyptian society.

Highly commended:

Anna Woolley (Wallington High School for Girls), for ‘Reflections on Repurposing and Recycling in Relation to an Anglo-Saxon Necklace’.

Anna’s essay on the Anglo-Saxon beads showed a fine grasp of the historical background and the difficulties of defining the nature of grave-goods and the range of things they might represent.

Emma Lester (The Judd School), for ‘Karpos’.

A poem about the pottery pig, relating it to the myth of Demeter and Persephone and the travails of a humble farming family. Haunting, immersive and imaginative.

Barbara Dooley (Magdalen College School, Oxford), for ‘Unguentaria in Life, Love, Gossip, and in Death’.

An extremely lively and interesting essay, showing an assured ability to combine different branches of knowledge – economic, scientific, historical and also literary, quoting a poem by Catullus to indicate the end use of this ‘innovative packaging solution’, a glass perfume bottle, at a Roman dinner party.

After two years in which Covid-19 made this impossible, it was lovely to be able to welcome prizewinners to the college on 5 May to receive their prizes in person from the Mistress and to be given a tour of the Lawrence Room Museum and of the college. Many thanks to Zac Copeland-Greene, classicist and former competition winner, for leading the tour! Commiserations to those who were unable to make it: we hope to be able to welcome you to Girton in the future.

Girton is grateful to Cambridge University Press and Miss C. Anne Wilson for their kind sponsorship of the competition.

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