Literary prize winners

12th July 2018

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A poem by Tom Batuello (Mst English & American Studies, 2017) ‘A Myth of Colonial New England’ wins the 2018 Rex Warner prize.

  • Tom Batuello (Mst English & American Studies, 2017)

    Tom Batuello (Mst English & American Studies, 2017)

Tom’s poem tells the story of colonial Puritan mother of nine, Hannah Duston who was taken captive by Native American Abenaki people in 1697. 

While detained it was claimed that she killed and scalped ten of the Native family members holding her hostage, saying the Abenaki had killed her baby during the journey to the island where she was held.

Duston's captivity narrative became famous more than 100 years after she died when she was referred to as ‘a folk hero’. However, scholars believe that her story only became legend in the 19th century because the United States used it to defend its violence against Native Americans. “Hannah is emblematic of the Puritan struggles in the new world and it was co-opted by the religious elite to further their message,” comments Tom. 

“I started writing poetry when I was bored in Maths classes when I was about 17,” recalls Tom who is no longer studying poetry but concentrating his efforts on his dissertation focused on early American literature and the relationships between the colonial Puritans and the Native Americans.

Tom first came to Wadham on the Sarah Lawrence Programme in 2015 and found it such a positive experience he was keen to return. “I have massively enjoyed Wadham and being an integrated member of the MCR,” he adds 

The Rex Warner judges, tutors Judy Stephenson and Hannah Bailey, describe the poem as a “daring reinterpretation” of the story, “demonstrating complexity and maturity in its structure.” 

The second prize in the competition goes to Grace Elshafei (Philosophy and Spanish, 2016) for her short story, A Pearl of Every Size, which judges described as being “moving, witty, imaginative and expertly constructed.”

Tom and Grace win £100 and £50 respectively. 

This annual competition is made possible by the generosity of Mrs Frances Warner, in memory of her husband Rex Warner, an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College. The Prize is open to Wadham undergraduates, students on the Sarah Lawrence visiting programme, and to graduates at Wadham who have not exceeded the end of the 9th term from commencement of graduate study.