English Essay Prizes

The Villanova English department gives out two essay awards each year:

  • The Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award
  • The Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award

The Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award, which comes with a prize of $100, is given to the most distinguished scholarly or critical essay written by an undergraduate student at Villanova.

The Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award, which comes with a prize of $150, is given to the most distinguished scholarly or critical essay written by a graduate student at Villanova.

Both awards come with a prize of $100.  The prize-winning essays are published in a booklet.  For previous winners, as well as information about Jerome J. Fischer and Margaret Powell Esmonde, see our Awards page.

Kevin Madden with Prof. Megan Quigley
Kevin Madden, winner of the 2016 Fischer Memorial Award for the most distinguished undergraduate essay written in a Villanova English course, with Prof. Megan Quigley


Both competitions are open only to students taking courses at Villanova University. To be eligible, essays must have been

  • written within a year preceding the deadline;
  • written either for a Villanova English course (2100 level or higher) or for a Villanova Honors course (2000 level or higher) that was taught by a member of the Villanova English faculty. Work submitted for a senior Honors thesis or an M. A. thesis is not eligible.


  • In addition to their essay, students should include a cover page including the course and professor for which the paper was written, as well as their local address, email, and telephone number.
  • Students should also submit the essay assignment or an approximation of the assignment.
  • Essays should be formatted in Times New Roman 12 (or equivalent font) and double-spaced.  Graduate essays are limited to 20 pages; undergraduate essays are limited to 12 pages.
  • Only one submission per student is allowed.
  • Notes should be organized in the parenthetical form recommended by the third edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
  • Judges are looking for argumentative originality and rigor, elegance of writing, and interpretive incisiveness. Winning papers tend to engage sources in addition to the primary text.

Submission information

The deadline for submissions for 2017 will be in early April.  E-mail submissions via attachment to sharon.rose-davis@villanova.edu.