LA&PS F/W 2017–2018 Writing Prize

In the Fall of 1987, following an endowment made by then Dean Tom Traves, York University’s Faculty of Arts held their first faculty-wide essay contest. The competition was intended to recognize and celebrate undergraduate excellence in academic composition. As the Faculty of Arts evolved into the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, that essay contest became the LA&PS Writing Prize.

Competition Description

The LA&PS Writing Prizes are open to all kinds of writing from students enrolled in LA&PS courses, including case studies, administrative/executive reports, reviews of all kinds, non-fiction prose and formal essays (creative writing excepted). There are five categories: first through fourth year, as well as Major Research Project (MRP)/Undergraduate Thesis (if applicable).

Any Course Director in LA&PS is eligible to nominate a paper (one per course) in the appropriate category. Students’ papers are nominated using the year level of the course they were written for. Due to the 2018 labour disruption, F/W 2017 and F/W 2018 entries were considered together during the summer of 2019, and the winners below reflect this combined assessment.

Winners receive a cash prize, a transcript notation, the opportunity to have their papers published online, and are invited to a Fall Ceremony celebrating their accomplishments.

This contest was co-ordinated by Jon Sufrin, with much assistance from LA&PS staff and LA&PS Associate Dean Peter Avery. Special thanks go to the Writing Department for their efforts in reviewing the competition’s submissions.

Papers are linked with permission from their authors. Honourable mentions are unranked.

Selection Process

Small juries composed of full-time Writing Department faculty were each assigned the papers from a single year level. Care was taken to avoid conflicts of interest in the adjudication process. Jurors considered the submission in context of its assignment, as well as the piece’s readability, style, depth of analysis, and professionalism.

Jury Members

Marlene Bernholtz, Kerry Doyle, Brenda McComb, Andrea McKenzie, Kim Michasiw, Margaret Schotte, Ron Sheese, Jon Sufrin.

1st Year

Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical Order by Author Last Name)

In the essay “Violence Against Black Queer People: The Intersections of Antiblackness and Antiqueerness in North American Society,” Michelle Molubi has produced a lucid, well-organized paper on a challenging topic. Writing with gravitas, Molubi draws upon an inclusive bibliography to interrogate “[t]he racism perpetuated by queer communities and the homophobia perpetuated by black communities.”

The adjudicators were impressed by Molubi’s discussion of the social construction of violence and victimhood, as well as the analysis of religion and race to tease apart homogeneous understandings of “queer community.” The author’s strategy of interspersing statistics and brief excerpts from news accounts with substantive argument helps to underscore the present-day relevance of the sophisticated theoretical analysis.

  • Honourable Mention: Sivana Vythilingum. “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

  • WRIT 1700A, Writing: Process and Practice. CD: Kerry Doyle.

This assignment challenges students to depart from the “standard” academic essay and participate in the classical tradition of the personal essay: shaping “personal experiences into narratives that make connections with anonymous readers, eliciting a wide range of emotions and intellectual engagement” – narratives “carefully crafted in strategic ways to reach an audience who does not know the author or may not care about the author’s experiences in any way.”

In “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” Sivana Vythilingum fully “owned” this assignment in relating the course of a tentative teenaged romantic experience sharply deteriorating into violence – by virtue of which it is permanently etched into her physiology, in this case, her sight. The essay skillfully weaves present and past experience, combining convincing sensual detail and a strong narrative thrust to embrace issues of immigration, ethnicity, class, gender, personal growth and maturity. The author engages readers in these immensely complex issues with a deft hand, giving them life through a confident and sophisticated shaping of a compelling narrative.

1st Year Winner

This paper, “Misogynistic presence in Cellini’s Vita & the works of Machiavelli,” stands out for the subtlety of its response to the assigned question, strength of its textual analysis in arguing its position, and perceptive demonstration of how literary and structural techniques engage with larger thematic elements of the texts and general societal issues – in this case, that of misogyny. Shailee Peck skillfully identifies telling passages that characterize each author’s particular species of misogyny, delineating a sharp contrast and building a compelling argument.”

In these features, Peck’s paper shows a mix of historical awareness, alertness to the workings of the text, and sensitivity to both authorial intent and readers’ reception very rare in first year writing. What’s more, it accomplishes this with felicitous prose style, free of jargon. Peck has gone well beyond the requirements of the assignment to produce a sophisticated piece in its own right.

2nd Year

Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical Order by Author Last Name)

  • Honourable Mention: Noorin Pattni. “Angola’s Challenges.”

  • SOSC 2800, International Development in Comparative and Historical Perspective. CD: Merouan Mekouar.

Noorin Pattni provides an excellent example of bringing the academic literature in an area to bear on an important current issue. Pattni uses academic research to identify complex challenges hindering development in Angola and proposes policy changes to address these challenges. The author defends their policy recommendations by reviewing other similar countries for evidence of the success of the proposed policies. They also recognize and stress the importance of context (such as cultural differences among the countries) as an essential factor in assessing the viability of the policies for Angola. The paper is clear, concise, well structured, and well argued.

“The Mission Before the Escape” recounts an arduous and marginalized life in a labyrinth of cruelty and prejudice. On the verge of escape, the author is tempted to celebrate the growth experienced in meeting the challenges of the labyrinth but warns that feelings of imminent success can well be the source of a complacency that would undermine any chance of becoming an active agent against the world’s treachery. All of this and more in a single 200-word sentence composed to meet a multitude of grammatical and lexical constraints.

2nd Year Winner

With this seriously funny piece of writing, Gil Segev provides an insightful primer on the social construction of gender in a witty proposal for a blog site that examines the relationship between men and makeup and the attitudes that colour the way we perceive and react to them individually and in combination. No powder puff piece this, the proposal builds a firm foundation for the existence of a site that refuses to gloss over the serious aspects of the topic, highlighting key issues and various perspectives – social, political, economic, historical – waiting to be explored by an intelligent, polished writer whose command of tone, sense of style and flawless wordplay brighten the page, enlighten our understanding, and reflect the concerns of the those who recognize that while social change must be more than cosmetic, cosmetics help us to define not only who we are, but what we most want to be.

3rd Year

Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical Order by Author Last Name)

Readers were impressed by this essay’s theoretically sophisticated grasp of the sometimes slippery concept of genre with particular emphasis on the ease with which comedy and tragedy may transform one into the other. The essay makes deft use of its primary theoretical sources—Northrop Frye, Suzanne K. Langer, Henri Bergson—and employs those sources to elicit novel readings of the two plays it treats. Readers were particularly struck by the way the essay’s facility with genre theory allowed it to conduct a persuasive defense of the recently much derogated Cloud Nine, and to respond effectively to the prevailing readings of Goodnight Desdemona. In employing a clearly elucidated theoretical frame to allow readers to see new things in literary texts is what literary criticism should do, and this essay does exactly that.

This paper is an exceptional instance of a specialized genre: the literature review. The author has selected three books concerning a single topic—in this instance studies of the people who conducted the Holocaust—comparing and contrasting the books’ methods, sources, modes of argument, and conclusions. The genre requires meticulous reading, a keen understanding of method, an aptitude for concise summary, an acute sense of telling detail, a scrupulous fairness to positions the writer does not share, and a capacity to make and express sound and persuasive judgments. That is all to say that the literature review presents many challenges—challenges made the greater by the fact that one of the books under review is deeply, even notoriously flawed. This paper meets them all, doing justice to the works under review and making its own persuasive case for its relative valuations. (It’s worth noting that the paper features one of the most effective self-situating footnotes the readers have seen.)

3rd Year Winner

Readers thought this an exceptionally poised and professional research essay that takes a topic that is perhaps on the dry side and makes the issues around Rome’s dependence on imported grain compelling. The essay’s topic is clearly outlined and the comprehensive research underpinning the essay’s argument is worn lightly. Despite the extensive timeline of the period considered, readers always know when they are and have a clear sense of historical development. We were also impressed by the deft employment of paraphrase in incorporating the work of recent scholarship, especially when these paraphrases are set against the essay’s allowing contemporary Roman sources the full benefit of direct quotation. The effect of hearing the ancients’ voices is the more striking given the context the essay creates for them.

4th Year

Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical Order by Author Last Name)

“Counterfeit Clothing Wars” beautifully balances personal story with factual background to create a compelling, in-depth feature article about local artists, “borrowed” designs, and the blurred lines of “ownership.” From first line to last, we are drawn into the artists’ lives and their battle against giant corporations who pirate original designs without credit and without compensation. Who’d have thought that a local artist would take on a Kardashian? And is it possible to “win” such a struggle? Vivid and compelling descriptions take us into the artists’ studios and lives, expertly woven with impeccable research and lucid explanations of complex issues. Similarly, the personal impact of such struggles is deftly parleyed into larger questions about copyright law, counterfeiting, and social media’s role. Distinctively and smoothly written, this timely and persuasive article enthralls while it subtly educates.

“Misjöfn Verks” provides a fascinating investigation of the intersection of poetry, technology, gender studies, and old Norse (i.e. Viking) culture. The author analyzes work songs found in the Icelandic Laxdaela saga, thoroughly deconstructing both the technology extant in Nordic cultures at the end of the first millennium and the divisions of labour that formed the basis for Nordic gender roles. Men dealt with the immediate: a sword blow, holding a tiller in place, or planting a furrow. Women, on the other hand, were responsible for “setting up mechanisms to automatically produce desired outputs” such as mills, looms, and even smithies. These produced results not only in the present, but also in the future, and, as a result, in Viking culture, women’s work became imbued with a “strong association between women, machines, and magic.” The mysteriousness of technology was left to women, while men favoured more direct methods. Thus, as the author notes in their conclusion, if anyone needed a mechanic in the Middle Ages, it was likely a woman who they would turn to for help.

The author includes many citations as well as illustrations, so their technical explanations are easy to follow. Further, they are able to deconstruct an Icelandic saga by making reference to the original Norse, carefully exposing the nuanced cultural meanings that a pure translation would leave out. The result is a superior paper that cannot fail to teach the reader something new, and in an interdisciplinary fashion that adds to the academic conversation in several fields.

4th Year Winner

This paper provides a sophisticated, nuanced, and in-depth exploration of Sidewalk Toronto, the controversial development proposed by Alphabet in partnership with the City of Toronto, raising provocative questions about this proposed “smart city,” data-driven and “adaptive,” through a neoliberal lens. The writer deftly demonstrates that such a development, where data is collected on many aspects of the inhabitants’ lives, would “reorder … power relations from government to business,” “marketise … urban life,” and potentially cause behaviour modification in the people who live there and elsewhere about urban life. Smoothly written and impeccably researched, “Dreams of the Merchant King” provides a superb alternative perspective about the potential and lasting impact of data, surveillance, and information ownership in such future urban developments. Timely and thought-provoking this fascinating discussion is a “must-read” for all.

All Nominees (organized alphabetically)

F/W 2017

Estelle Annan. “Mothering and Motherhood within Cyberspace: An Analysis of Mainstream Media and its Effects on Child Rearing within the Twenty First Century”. SOCI 3660 Families and Social Change. Nominated by: Mandi Gray.

Antonnia Kiana Blake. “Body-worn Cameras and Policing in North America: A Comprehensive Analysis”. HREQ 4600 Research Seminar. Nominated by: Tania Das Gupta, Equity Studies.

Gem Cabutaje. “The Division of Labour in Paid and Unpaid Work in Canada”. SOCI 3660 Families and Social Change. Nominated by: Jade De Costa, Sociology.

Jonathan Clodman. “Teachers and TAs Unions Divided: Inconsistent Coverage of 2015 Strike Action”. WRIT 3011 Reading the News. Nominated by: Andrea McKenzie, Writing.

Rebecca Giblon. “Labour Negotiations in Toronto’s Jewish Garment Industry, 1931-1944: Conflict & Cooperation”. HIST 4851 Worry & Wonder: Jewish Politics, Religion and Culture in Canada. Nominated by: David Koffman, LAPS.

Zackery Goldford. “Legislators, Judges and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: An Analysis of Section 33”. POLS 4990 Supervised Reading and Research. Nominated by: Jacqueline Krikorian, Political Science and Law & Society.

Ana Iordache. “Final Essay”. HUMA 2670 Film and Literature. Nominated by: Susan Ingram, Humanities.

Kendra Myesha. “Bill C-36, the Criminal Justice System and Its Facilitation of Gender Inequality”. HREQ 3100A Research Methods in Equity Studies. Nominated by: Tania Das Gupta, Equity Studies.

Duncan Murphy. “Reading Slowly Through Gary Panter and C.F.’s Useless Comic Books”. HIST 4230/ENG 4480 Technologies of Communications: A History of Reading. Nominated by: Margaret Schotte, History/LAPS.

Gloria Park. “Rehabilitate the Prisoner, Not Punish the Crime”. CRIM 3656 Punishment. Nominated by: Law Tuulia, Social Science.

Alexandra Pavelich. “Harm Reduction and Canada’s Opioid Crisis: A Critical Response on the Failure of the War on Drugs”. SOCI 3820 Sociology of Health and Health Care. Nominated by: Eric Mykhaloskiy, Sociology/LAPS.

Relina Raymond D’Cruz. “Invisibility of Corporate Harms: Limitations in Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing”. CRIM 4657 Crime and the Corporation. Nominated by: Myles Wieselman, Social Science.

F/W 2018

Shakeel Ahmed. “Gods in The Iliad”. HUMA 4103 Interpretations of Homeric Epic. Nominated by: Matthew Clark, Humanities.

Sandra Ata. “Zombies and the Haitian Gothic: A Closer Look at the Haitian Revolution”. POLS 4060 Slavery and Freedom. Nominated by: Andrew Jones, Political Science.

Benjamin Barnier. “What Motivated Those Who Helped the Jews?”. HUMA 3850/HIST 3221A Perspectives on the Holocaust. Nominated by: Micheal Brown, Humanities/History.

Ranfateh Chattha. “State Management and Private Enterprise in the Grain Supply of Ancient Rome”. HIST 3140 The City in the Roman World. Nominated by: Ben Kelly, History.

Eric Denyoh. “Lawlessness on the Frontier: An Analysis of Land Conflicts in the Brazilian Amazon”. POLS 4210 Peace Research. Nominated by: Elizabeth Dauphinee, Politics.

Stephen Derek Devitt. “Honour and Hierarchy and Their Influence of the Conflict Between Achilleus and Agamemnon in Homer’s The Iliad”. HUMA 1100 Worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome. Nominated by: Mohamed Khimji, Humanities.

Dora Duardo, Jacob Freire & Tanisha Sukhu. “Presentation Script March 7, 2019”. DLLL 1000 World Literatures in Perspective. Nominated by: Aido Jordao, DLLL.

John Edwards. “Manipulating the Cinematic Apparatus: History, Gender and Meaning”. CLTR 3523 Feminism and Films. Nominated by: Gail Valstone, Humanities.

Oyindamola Esho. “For the Love of R&B”. WRIT 2004M Writing in Digital Cultures. Nominated by: Andrea Mckenzie, Writing.

Shawn Grey. “Bird Junctions”. WRIT 2100 Studies in Non-Fiction. Nominated by: Kerry Doyle, Writing.

Racquel Hewitt. “A Family Without Roots”. HIST 4850 History of Me: The Genealogy Seminar. Nominated by: David Koffman, History.

Sundus Hussein. “These Hands Make Music Too”. WRIT 4005 Travel Writing & The Professional Writer. Nominated by: Kerry Doyle, Writing.

Zena Kamocki. “Stealing Memories, Stealing Self: The Problematic Use of Mindwipe in Literature for Youth”. EN 4050 The Arts of Memory. Nominated by: Julia Creed, English.

Noam Karakowsky. “The Atwal Effect: Examining Media Coverage of Trudeau’s India Trip”. WRIT 3011 Reading the News. Nominated by: Andrea McKenzie, Writing.

Avreen Kochhar. “Corporate Responsibility and Employees”. HRM 4420M Human Resources Research Methods. Nominated by: James Chowhan, Human Resource Management.

Christina Laconsay. “Dance for Change”. HUMA 4160 Storytellers, Multicentered Worlds & Resistance. Nominated by: Sherry Rowley, Humanities.

P.J. Lakhanpal. “Sculpting Glory: How Honour was an Integral Part of Roman Childhood Education”. HIST 4130 Problems in Roman History. Nominated by: Jonathan Edmondson, History.

Natalia Lukes. “How Picturebooks Can Help Children Understand the Topic of Immigration Through the Use of Facial Expressions, Body Language and Positioning of the Characters”. HUMA 3691 Picturebooks in Children’s Culture. Nominated by: L. Wisemen, Ed/Humanities.

Aysha Malik. “The Use of Esoteric Mystical Realities in Rescuing Communities”. EN 2240 Postcolonial Literatures in English. Nominated by: Alston Vermonja, English.

Darren McAlmont. “Let’s Talk About the Skin I’m In”. WRIT 1004 Research for Professional Writers. Nominated by: Stephanie Bell, Writing.

Gabrielle Mendoza-Harry. “Working Memory and Bilingualism”. COGS 4901 Honours Seminar in Cognitive Science. Nominated by: Jacob Beck, Philosophy/LAPS.

Michelle Molubi. “Violence Against Black Queer People: The Intersections of Antiblackness and Antiqueerness in North American Society”. HUMA 1300 Cultures of Resistance in the Americas: The African American Experience. Nominated by: Andrea Davis, Humanities.

Christopher Moure. “What Lies Ahead”. WRIT 1702 Process and Practice. Nominated by: Jon Sufrin, Writing.

Madj Obeid. “The Mass Incarceration of African Americans in the United States of America”. HIST 4061 Race and Politics in America Since the Second World War. Nominated by: Kendra Boyd, History.

Carlo Panaro. “Rewriting Indigenous Black Canadian Discourse: The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God and the Imaginative Phenomenological Archive”. HUMA 3315 Black Literatures and Cultures in Canada. Nominated by: Leslie Sanders, Humanities.

Noorin Pattni. “Angola’s Challenges”. SOSC 2800 International Development in Comparative and Historical Perspective. Nominated by: Merouan Mekouar, Social Science.

Jerome Paul. “The Comedy of Tragedy in Goodnight Desdemona and Cloud Nine”. EN 3191 Comedy. Nominated by: Aida Jordao, English.

Chris Paulin. “Historiographical Review of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel J. Goldhagen, and Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross”. HIST 3843 Occupation, Collaboration and Death: A Social and Military History of the Second World War to 1944. Nominated by: Deb Neil, History.

Shailee Peck. “Misogynistic Presence in Cellini’s Vita and the Works of Machiavelli”. HUMA 1125 Civilization of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Nominated by: Thomas Cohen, Humanities.

Alexandra Prochskenko. “In Physics We Trust”. EN 3180 Literary Non-Fiction. Nominated by: Julia Creet, English.

Olivia Quenneville. “The Counterfeit Clothing Wars”. WRIT 4002 Periodical Writing and Publishing Practicum. Nominated by: Paul McLaughlin, Writing.

Luiza Ravalli. “Cradles of Life: Anthropological Perspectives on Early Life, Loss and the Infant Incubator”. ANTH 4330 Critical Issues in Medical Anthropology. Nominated by: Sandra Widmer, Anthropology.

Vincent Rizzo. “The Mission Before the Escape”. WRIT 2710 Grammar and Proofreading. Nominated by: Dunja Baus, Writing.

V. M. Roberts. “Misjöfn Verks: Gendered Division of Labour and Social/Instrumental Power in the Viking Age”. HIST 4990 History of Technology. Nominated by: Margaret Schotte, History/LAPS.

V. Micheal Roberts. “What’s a Good Story Anyway? Science-fiction Fix-ups and Story as Concept”. HIST 4230 Technologies of Communication: A History of Reading from the Codex to the Kindle. Nominated by: Margaret Schotte, History.

Gil Segev. “Homme Improvement (Proposal and One Blog Post)”. WRIT 2004A Writing in Digital Cultures. Nominated by: Andrea McKenzie, Writing.

Gaganpreet Sidhu. “Xenia and the Symbolism of Guest-Friendship in Homer’s Iliad”. HUMA 1105 Myth and Imagination in Ancient Greece and Rome. Nominated by: Sarah Blake, Humanities.

Beatrice Sohler. “How Photographic Mediums Shaped and Challenged the Portrayals of Japanese Women in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Japan”. HIST 4765 Rethinking Gender in East Asian History. Nominated by: Janice Kim, History.

Vanessa Spagnuolo. “The Rationalization of Immortality Through Language and Praxis”. HUMA 1625 Fantasy and Topographies of Imagination. Nominated by: Sherry Rowley, Humanities.

Sivana Vythilingum. “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. WRIT 1700A Writing Process & Practice. Nominated by: Kerry Doyle, Writing.

John Wilson. “How to Save a Marsh”. WRIT 4002 Periodical Writing and Publishing Practicum. Nominated by: Paul McLaughlin, Writing.

Tamar Wise. “Winter Term Paper - Comparative Analysis of Melba Pattillo Beals’s Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High and Bev Sellars’s They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School”. HIST 1080 Growing Up in North America. Nominated by: Molly Ladd-Taylor, History.

Joseph Yachimec. “Dreams of the Merchant-King: Sidewalk Toronto as Neoliberal Project”. POLS 4404 Politics and Cultures of Neoliberalism Urbanism. Nominated by: Karen Murray, Politics.

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