Wood Whistler Medals awarded to three Newnham students

“Supremely excellent”, “insightful”, and “exemplary” – some of the feedback on the essays submitted by Newnham postgraduates for the Wood Whistler Medal. 

Students, Fellows and guests gathered at Newnham last week, to celebrate the award of the Wood Whistler Medals for the first time since 2019. Clare St George (2021/22 award winner), Aimee Wragg (2020/21 award winner) and Georgie Carr (2019/20 award winner) were recognised both for their outstanding scholarship, and their literary skills. 

The Wood Whistler Medal and scholarships are awarded each year to an MPhil student in the humanities who will carry on their PhD at Newnham.  They commemorate alumna Benedicta Whistler (1927-2001, NC 1946), who was a generous benefactor of the College. In the mid 1950s, with her aunt, the Hon. Mrs Wood, she gave to the College the Baskerville books, one of the treasures of the Rare Books collection. After her death, the Trustees of the Paragon Trust which Benedicta had chaired, under their current chairman, Lucy Whistler, Benedicta’s niece, wished to commemorate the family’s associations with Newnham. Thus, since 2003, the College has awarded  a Wood-Whistler Medal and honorarium each year to the best M. Phil. dissertation in one of a number of humanities subjects.

Clare St George is completing an M.Phil. in English Studies. In her essay on “‘No quite solid table’: Spatial Form in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves”, Clare, as noted by one of the assessors, “absorbed many of the pressing questions about modernist literature circulating in the last decades and moved them in a new direction.” One of the assessors commented, “This is a supremely excellent essay. Modernist literary criticism is a competitive field, attracting some of the best students through the sheer over-subscription of the relevant courses. It is therefore especially significant that this essay stands out in that field. The essay is not just well written – encompassing tight, thoughtful analysis and confident argumentation – but it has style itself. The writer is clearly one to watch.”

Aimee Wragg, M.Phil. in Philosophy, submitted a shortened version of her undergraduate dissertation: “The Epistemology of Testimony on Social Media”. Aimee, as noted by one of the assessors, raised some deep questions and answered them in an original and quirky way, making us think differently about how testimony works on social media. One of the assessors commented, “this is a superb essay, insightful, well-argued and beautifully written. Especially interesting was the analysis of anonymity, a double-edged feature of social media posts, preventing the personal commitment that is special to testimony, but at the same time allowing more diverse voices. This essay addresses a question that is neglected but increasingly important, in a context where we obtain so much of our knowledge from social media.”

Georgie Carr, M.Phil. in Film & Screen Studies, submitted two pieces of work: “Defetishising the Commodity In The Era of Colonial Modernity: Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino’s La Hora de los Hornos (1968)” and “Double Or Nothing: Excess and Spectacle in the Portrayal of Female Twins”. These two beautifully written essays, on radically different topics, were highly praised and described as “excellent scholarship and exemplary writing”. One reader wrote that “drawing on an incredible range of sources and ideas…the writer is able to make clear, at times polemic, points, evidencing them with close and careful analyses”. Both essays were “compelling texts, fascinating to read for scholars of film and visual culture” while also contributing to work on feminism and decolonisation.”

We look forward to seeing the future scholarship and writing of all our prizewinners.