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12 March 2024

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St Hugh’s announces winner of Avril Bruten Award 2024

Congratulations to first year graduate student, Sarah Marshall (DPhil, Classical Languages and Literature) who has won this year’s Avril Bruten Creative Writing Award for her story ‘The Arborist‘. The announcement was made at a special event held in Maplethorpe Hall on Wednesday 1 March 2024, during which shortlisted students and acclaimed poet and judge, Mary Jean Chan performed readings of their work. Sarah is pictured here with Mary Jean.

Mary Jean Chan said, ”The Arborist’ is an intriguing story about a familial relationship written in a distinctive narrative voice. The prose is lucid and elegant, and I found the use of silence to be powerfully affecting. There is also a keen attention to imagery and musicality which I admired in this accomplished piece of prose.’

Explaining the inspiration behind her story, winner, Sarah Marshall said, ”The Arborist’ was partially inspired by the ancient poem Metamorphoses. Ovid’s mythography features numerous episodes of humans transformed into trees: most famously Daphne, a nymph who is pursued by the amorous god Apollo; in the end, her father turns her into a laurel tree in order to save her. In Ovid, the laurel tree ‘seems to nod its head in assent’ when Apollo asks it to become his sacred tree. That ‘seems’ always caught my imagination, and I wanted to explore the question of agency – and the line between salvation and imprisonment – in my story. All the tree species mentioned in ‘The Arborist’ also appear as objects of transformation in the Metamorphoses. At its core, however, this story is about loss and the lengths we will go to cope.’

You can read Sarah’s story by clicking here.

Congratulations to the shortlisted students who are pictured below: Madeline Bryant, Esteban Sanchez, Avania Costello and Abigail Anthony.

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