For Students

Richard Drake Award for Student Writing

The Richard Drake Writing Award honors excellence in writing in the humanities in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and is awarded to one undergraduate and one graduate student per year. Papers focusing on history, literature, philosophy, religion, politics and the classics are considered. Papers are judged on the basis of excellence in writing, imagination in research, and force of argument.

Due Date is April 1st

Richard Drake Writing Award Recipients

Undergraduate/History

Stephen Hayes, "A Time for Radical Action: The Black Grassroots Freedom Struggle in America's Second City in the Mid-1960s"

Abstract: The traditional civil rights narrative focuses on the South, national organizations, and the men who led these organizations. Consequently, this narrative often ignores important actions and actors that fall outside this limited purview. The traditional narrative also presupposes that nonviolence was the movement’s primary organizing ethos. Yet recent scholarship has challenged this assumption and argued that armed resistance was also critical. This essay examines Chicago grassroots activists who challenged school segregation, police brutality, and housing discrimination and argues that most actions in Chicago were not nonviolent. If one defines nonviolence as the refusal to respond to violence in kind, then many peaceful actions can be redefined as unviolent. This essay uses the concepts of armed, unviolent, and nonviolent resistance to develop a new framework called the resistance continuum. This framework allows one to understand more intuitively that all movement actions were fundamentally resistance to oppression rather than competing acts from antithetical factions. Furthermore, one can more easily explain how purported dogmatists vacillated and sometimes found cause to welcome actions that conflicted with their ostensible philosophy. These actors sought only to advance their cause, which occasionally meant sliding along the continuum. Ultimately, this essay argues that most actions in Chicago were unviolent because actors there had greater opportunities for unviolent resistance as compared to the South. Moreover, women took advantage of opportunities for unviolent resistance more than men and were frequently leaders of Chicago activism. Lastly, nonviolent actors at times traversed the continuum to participate in armed resistance, and vice versa.

Graduate/History 

Jared Norwood, "The Other NRA: The National Rehabilitation Association, the American State, and the Defense of Disability, 1925-1935"

Abstract: In 1920, Congress passed the Smith-Fess Act establishing the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation program for the nation’s crippled population and placed it under the direction of the Federal Board for Vocational Education (FBVE). The language of the law provided only scant criteria for the states to follow in the implementation of the program. Due to the lack of professional qualifications and credentials among staff, a group of rehabilitation officials, state-level directors and members of the FBVE, gathered in private to establish a new organization tasked with bringing the needs of the rehabilitation program and people with disabilities to the attention of federal officials. The National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), established to provide some level of national standards, quickly evolved into an authoritative body that wielded the power of the FBVE. Governmental agencies in the post-World War I era emerged to fill the gaps between federal and state power; Congress tended to act while agencies and nongovernmental organizations tended to react. What happened, however, if a nongovernmental association chose to act? This essay explores this question and argues that the NRA, not the FBVE, acted as the primary policy vehicle for change.

Undergraduate/English

Noah Belanger, “The Eternity of Memory: Knausgaard, Augustine, and the Fictive Self Portrait of My Struggle”

Abstract: Much of the criticism surrounding Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book My Struggle has to do with its form, which disregards traditional ideas of genre in favor of something that is autobiography and fiction, narrative and philosophical handbook. This essay, however, is primarily concerned with the existential questions the book raises. The literary and psychoanalytic contexts of these existential questions offer an opportunity for a new interpretation of the book’s form. Knausgaard is obsessed with time and how to locate a stable human self within ever shifting temporalities. In this way, Knausgaard’s work is part of a long tradition of semiautobiographical writing that questions the nature of the temporal subject, and in particular, My Struggle can be seen as a modern iteration of Saint Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine celebrates memory as a human reflection of the eternal nature of God, but since memory is only an imitation of eternity, Augustine never truly resolves his anxieties. My Struggle, however, accepts the psychoanalytic notion of the self as a construction of narrative, and as a result, Knausgaard’s writing knowingly blends fiction and nonfiction into one form, a fictive self-portrait. The form of My Struggle, therefore, is Knausgaard’s answer to the existential questions that plague him, and the memory on which the book’s 3600 pages are based is a semi-fictional creation that reasserts the self in a modified version of the Augustinian celebration of memory.

Graduate/Environmental Philosophy

André Kushnir, “Overcoming Climate Crisis Apathy Through Virtual Ethics”

Abstract: One of the major issues facing contemporary environmental decision making is inconsequentialism—the idea that the sustainable actions of the one (or few) are inefficacious in a culture in which the super-majority acts harmfully towards the environment. According to Ronald Sandler, this happens for one of three reasons: 1) there is no political arrangement in place to address these issues; 2) there is a political arrangement, but it is inadequate to address the problem; 3) there is an adequate arrangement but the costs to the individual of contribution are greater than that of not complying. This essay gives examples of why all three of these drivers of inconsequentalism accurately describe the socio-ethical conditions in the United States. Then, I discuss how we can overcome our atomistic way of thinking about responsibility that results in the driver 3) of inconsequentalism—the one that still remains even if adequate policy is in place—by replacing it with a relational ontology. Finally, I argue that it is through practicing virtue ethics that we will best be able to actualise this relational ontology. The future we envision through environmental thinking is going to require some fundamental changes in our behaviours; in order to see these changes through to their ends, we will need to have a practice that compliments our principles: this paper attempts to give an idea of what that practice might look like.

Undergraduate Winner

Joshua Hall, “Grappling with Milton’s God”

Graduate Winner

Beatrice Garrard, “Museum of Whales”

Undergraduate

Ryan Garnsey, "Dostoyevsky: Definite Circumstances and the Character of an Individual"

Graduate

Dwight Curtis, “The Play Within the Play: Eschaton, Hamlet, and 'Theater-Boundaries' in Infinite Jest"