This year’s Patrick Tolfree essay competition, open to students of any academic level over the age of 18 and living anywhere in the world.

Patrick Tolfree Student Essay Competition 2019


Welcome to this year’s Patrick Tolfree essay competition, open to students of any academic level over the age of 18 and living anywhere in the world.

In line with the projected theme of the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of the Thomas Hardy Journal, the theme of this year’s essay competition is “Hardy Now”. We invite entries of 3,000-4,000 words that reflect on “the contemporary purchase” (Kornbluh and Morgan 2015) of Hardy’s writing.

These might focus on a Hardyan theme with particular resonance today, such as:

  • the relationship between humans and their ecological environments

  • sexual consent and sexual violence

  •  animal rights and the ethics of the human-animal encounter

  • economic structures and their psychological implications

  • heredity and determinism

  • the cultural impact of infrastructural development

  • overpopulation.

Any approach to the question of how Hardy’s writings help shape the way we understand our own social, political, cultural, historical moment will be warmly received. You may focus on Hardy’s fiction or poetry, his other prose writings, his contributions to architecture, or any other aspect of his life and work.

The closing date for submissions is 15 August 2019. All notable entries will be considered for publication in a future issue of one of the journals of the Hardy Society. The winner will receive a prize of £250 along with one year’s free membership of the Thomas Hardy Society, and publication in the Thomas Hardy Journal, following the standard peer-review process.

Please send your submission and any enquiries to Andrew Hewitt, Thomas Hardy Society Student Representative, at

This competition honours the late Patrick Tolfree, avid Hardy reader and scholar, author of monographs and tireless promoter of interest in Hardy's life and works in local schools.

Previous Winners of Patrick Tolfree Essay Competition

  • 2018 winner: Justin Tackett (Stanford University, California) - 'Hearing Hardy's The Convergence of the Twain'

  • 2017 winner: Steph Meek (University of Exeter) - 'Demolishing the Doll of English Fiction: Hardy and the Medium of Censorship'

  • 2016 winner: Elena Rimondo (Ca' Foscari University, Venice) - 'Architectural Masks: Moral Wickedness and Disguise in Hardy's Buildings'

  • 2015 winner: Sarah Stutt (University of Hull) - 'Too Late Beloved: Alain-Fournier's Le grand Meaulnes and Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles'
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