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10 May 2023

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St Hugh’s announces winner of Avril Bruten Award 2023

Congratulations to Eliza Browning (MSt English [1900-present]) who has won this year’s Avril Bruten Creative Writing Award for her story “Jeanne D’Arc in the Flatlands” (pictured here with esteemed poet and judge, Seni Seneviratne). The announcement was made at a special event held in Maplethorpe Hall on Wednesday 26 April 2023, where we were honoured to be joined by two of Avril’s sisters, Janet and Dulcie and Dulcie’s son Mike.

During the event, shortlisted students read from their work and Seni Seneviratne performed some of her recent poetry. Tutorial Fellow in English, Dr Nicholas Perkins read some of Avril Bruten’s poems.

Explaining the inspiration behind her story, Eliza said, ‘I wrote this story two years ago while participating in the Strange Tools Writing Workshop. At the time I was thinking about the Joan of Arc legend and this poem by Klara Pokryzwa; “Jeanne D’Arc in the Flatlands” is a retelling set in contemporary Oklahoma. I’ve always been fascinated by Joan of Arc and how she’s been re-adapted in recent decades as a transgressive queer and feminist figure with a lot of resonance to constructions of gender, sexuality and the contemporary landscape. This story reflects my interests in the strangeness of girlhood, forbidding landscapes, and the dissolution of childhood friendships.’

Dr Nicholas Perkins, Tutorial Fellow in English said, ‘The Avril Bruten Award has become a fixture in the College’s calendar, bringing people together across the St Hugh’s community to celebrate our students’ creativity. We had a large number of entries this year, and it was great to hear the shortlisted students read aloud from their work, alongside our inspiring judge this year, poet Seni Seneviratne. The winning entry from Eliza is a short story that immediately draws you in as a reader, and expertly develops a sense of beauty, mystery and loss. I really enjoyed reading it.’

The Avril Bruten Award is an annual event in memory of Avril Gilchrist Bruten, Fellow in English at St Hugh’s from the late 1960s until 1999. She left a generous bequest to set up the Award, which was first run in 2007.

You can read Eliza’s winning story here.

Above: Avril Bruten’s sisters, Janet and Dulcie and Dulcie’s son Mike pictured with Sene Seneviratne

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