‘Go Back to the Text:’ PhD Graduate Katie Davis Wins Jane Austen Essay Contest

Katie DavisWhen researching the essay that would later win first prize in the graduate division of the Jane Austen Society of North America's (JASNA) annual essay contest, Katie Davis, who graduated from UD with a doctorate in literature last May, employed her UD training.

"The way I learned to read Austen at UD is to go back to the text," said Davis. "So I read and re-read the text very carefully."

While pondering the prompt—why Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice" is timeless—Davis noticed a shift in verb tense during a critical moment in the reconciliation scene between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. This detail led Davis to write "The adieu is charity itself: One timeless feature of 'Pride and Prejudice'" an essay on the timelessness of a love founded on charity—an essay chosen from a pool of over 200 submissions.

As one of the winners, Davis will be a guest of honor at JASNA's Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis this September. In addition, she will receive a $1,000 scholarship, and her essay will be published on the JASNA website.

"Her critical skill, eloquence, and imagination would have made Jane Austen herself proud," said Eric W. Nye, JASNA essay coordinator and visiting fellow.

Davis, who wrote her dissertation on "Liberty in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'" is enthusiastic to continue her scholarship on the 19th century British novelist. In the coming year, Davis will teach literature courses at UD and Southern Methodist University.

"There's so much to be said about Jane Austen that hasn't been said yet, especially in the growing movement of Austen scholarship that focuses on virtue-ethics," said Davis.

While Davis claims the inaugural first prize win for the university at JASNA's annual essay contest, UD regularly puts in a strong showing with literature graduate students Shannon Blatt, Mary Parrack and Jessica Hooten all having previously won second or third place in the graduate division.

PHOTO: Davis with her brothers and father at Commencement.

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