Graduate Student Takes First Prize in Jane
Austen Essay Contest
A St. John’s University student pursuing a master’s degree in
English has captured first place in the graduate division of the
2012 Jane Austen Society of North
America (JASNA) Essay Contest.
Christina Denny ’13G wrote the winning essay,
which nine judges selected from among 80 entries worldwide.
Entitled “Why ‘Willoughby’? Resisting the Familiar in Sense and
Sensibility,” it explores Austen’s use of formal and informal
address to demonstrate characters pursuing and resisting intimacy
Although a long-time fan of the British author, Denny said she
had not actually studied Austen until enrolling in the Master of
Arts program in
English at St. John’s.
Denny learned about the JASNA contest while working on a paper
about Austen for a seminar taught by
Amy King, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English in St. John’s College of
Liberal Arts and Sciences. Dr. King encouraged her to submit
her final paper.
“Her essay is exceptionally nuanced and original,” said Dr.
King. “Clearly, the scholars who picked it know their Austen. I’m
delighted that Christina is being singled out and honored for her
contributions to Austen scholarship — and I’m gratified that she
wrote it while studying with me.”
Student and professor are looking forward to attending the JASNA
meeting together in Brooklyn, NY, on October 5–7. As Denny’s mentor
and invited guest, Dr. King will be at the Saturday night banquet
when the prizes are announced.
They both will be presented with complimentary, one-year
memberships in JASNA, and Denny will receive a scholarship,
registration, two nights’ lodging and a bound set of the Norton
Critical Editions of Austen’s novels. “It will be a celebratory
evening for both of us,” said Dr. King.
Jane Austen Today — the course taught by Dr. King — opened up a
new and provocative way for Denny to read the 19th-century author.
“Looking at contemporary adaptations of Austen’s novels,” she said,
“including movies, television programs and books, helped me to
understand why they are still alive today in popular culture.” She
also gained a greater appreciation of Austen’s artistry.
Originally from Alaska, Denny came to St. John’s to pursue
English after majoring in media studies and working in the
editorial field. As she mulls her next step, Denny looks forward to
her upcoming Brooklyn adventure. “I’m excited to meet other Austen
scholars and fans,” she said, “and learn more about my favorite