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Rebecca West Prize for Writing

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

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Rebecca West - image by Madame Yévonde
Rebecca West, photographed by Madame Yévonde

Applications are invited for the inaugural Rebecca West Prize, open to all students at the University of Oxford. This prize of £1,500 will be awarded annually to celebrate the writing, life and achievements of Rebecca West (1892-1983), and has been established at St Edmund Hall by the Rebecca West Literary Estate.

Applicants are asked to submit one piece of writing on a topic related to Rebecca West’s interests, set each year by the International Panel. The 2017 topic is: ‘The Meaning of Treason’.

“If a state gives a citizen protection, it has claims to his allegiance,” wrote Rebecca West in 1947. In the recent past, many of the most egregious acts designed to evoke terror in the general population have been carried out by natural-born citizens of the countries in which the attacks occurred, as exemplified by Dylann Roof of the Charleston shootings, or Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam of the attacks in Belgium and France. For example, in a world of ‘globalization’, when does ‘terrorism’ become ‘treason’; and, if there is a useful distinction between the two, should we prosecute one differently to the other?

We are seeking writers who have the intelligence, clarity and audacity to match the deft probing and profound psychological insight West brought to the most pressing human questions. Entrants will be expected to demonstrate some working knowledge of West and her thinking. The piece of writing (between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length) must be sent in an electronic PDF form to college.office@seh.ox.ac.uk by 5:00pm on Sunday 23 April 2017 – the first day of Full Term in Trinity. The International Panel will shortlist candidates, and the Prize will be awarded at a presentation ceremony held at St Edmund Hall on Friday 16 June, followed by a dinner.

The Panel will include the following people:

• Dr Norman Macleod, Executor, Rebecca West Literary Estate
• Professor Ann Holbrook, Anselm College, US, and President of the International Rebecca West Society
• Professor Wes Williams, Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.

The International Rebecca West Society was founded in 2003, by Bernard Schweizer, a West scholar; Helen Macleod Atkinson, West's great-niece and an alumna of St Edmund Hall (1983, English); and Carl Rollyson, a West biographer.

The Society’s website pays tribute to Rebecca West as follows: “As a young woman she was a fiery suffragette and socialist; by her thirties, a world-famous journalist and political analyst as well as a distinguished novelist.”