Student essay links Hardy's architectural writings with the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

Reflections on Hardy and Notre Dame takes Patrick Tolfree Prize

Student essay links Hardy's architectural writings with the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

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One of the highlights of the Hardy Society student calendar is the annual Patrick Tolfree Essay Competition. Initiated by Dr Tracy Hayes (former Student Representative and now Secretary of the Society), named after the late Patrick Tolfree (author, scholar, and tireless promoter of interest in Hardy, especially among young readers), the competition invites entries from students anywhere in the world. Although the majority of the essays received this year were from the UK, Canada and India were also represented. Thanks to Tracy for her support in preparing the shortlist and to Drs Tony Fincham, Karin Koehler, and Faysal Mikdadi for serving as judges. Above all of course – thanks to the students who entered for sharing some truly stimulating and original essays.

The theme of the competition was aligned to the forthcoming issue of the Thomas Hardy Journal: ‘Hardy Now’. Some of the entries engaged more directly than others with this theme. Hardy’s striking insight into the natural world, his awareness of the changes wrought by industrialisation and urbanisation, his willingness to contemplate the gigantic timespans of planetary and evolutionary change, makes his work a good site for the exploration of ‘Anthropocenic’ themes, and indeed several papers read Hardy for his sensitivity to the impact of humankind on ‘nature’ (however defined/constructed). Other competition entries focused on modern adaptations of Hardy’s work and/or offered illuminating close readings of specific novels. The scholarly community will no doubt be hearing more from all the students who took part in the 2019 Patrick Tolfree Competition.

When it came to selecting a winner, the unanimous choice of the judges was ‘“Memories, History, Fellowships, Fraternities”: Why Hardy’s Views on Human Association in Architecture Matter for the Recent Destruction of Notre-Dame Cathedral’, by Carolina Elices – as one judge described it, a ‘thoughtful, well-researched, and moving’ essay that ‘draws relevant links between Hardy’s architectural position (and, by extension, that of Ruskin) and the recent fire at Note-Dame Cathedral’. Another judge praised the combination of ‘approachable’ style with high standards of scholarly writing that made the essay ‘utterly enjoyable to read’. Carolina uses Under the Greenwood Tree, ‘Memories of Churchyard Restoration’, and interviews and reports on the Notre-Dame fire to explore what one judge called the ‘always relevant concern about preservation vs. restoration’. Watch out for Carolina’s essay in the next issue of the Journal, where you will also be able to read last year’s winning paper from Justin Tackett. Many congratulations! Details of the 2020 competition will be published in November; it will have a deadline in mid-August.

– Andrew Hewitt, Student Representative


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