Graduate students in the English department can enter writing competitions in the programs or in the Clarke prize.

The Literature program sponsors the Literature Graduate Writing Award for the best essay in literary studies written by a graduate student.

The Composition program offers the Graduate Writing Award in Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric.

The Writing Program administers three graduate writing awards: the Turow-Kinder Prize for Fiction, the Graduate Nonfiction Award, and the Academy of American Poets/Graduate Poetry Award.

The Eric O. Clarke Dissertation Prize, jointly awarded by Cultural Studies Program and the Department of English, recognizes graduate students in English or Cultural Studies PhD certificate-holders (from any department in the Dietrich School) whose dissertations are of high quality and which centrally address one or more of the following fields of inquiry:  

  1. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) studies, queer theory;
  2. Feminist studies, feminist theory;
  3. Philosophy, critical theory, literary theory; or
  4. British or comparative literature and culture from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

The Eric O. Clarke Dissertation Prize, first awarded in 2013, was generously created in August 2011 by Dr. Petra Dierkes-Thrun (PhD ’03) and her husband, Dr. Sebastian Thrun, in memory of Dr. Clarke, who was a faculty member in the English Department and Cultural Studies from 1992 until his death in 2010. He did innovative work in nineteenth-century British literary studies and sexuality studies.  He joined Pitt’s faculty as an assistant professor in 1992 and was promoted to associate professor in 1998. Dr. Clarke served as the English Department’s Director of Graduate Studies from 2001 to 2006, and he taught the Cultural Studies common seminar.

To be considered for the prize, the dissertation must be nominated unanimously by the student’s dissertation committee. Self-nominations are not accepted. For English Department dissertations being nominated for August and December 2017 or April 2018 degree dates, committee nomination letters and an electronic copy of the dissertation itself must be submitted by May 15, 2018 to Don Bialostosky, Chair of the English Department, in care of Jennifer Seemann (

The winner of the $500 prize will be announced in September 2018. The Prize committee reserves the right not to award the prize in any given year, however, should the pool of nominees be judged insufficient to satisfy the award guidelines.