DPhil student wins Review of English Studies prize

29 June 2020

Fergus McGhee, a DPhil student in English, has been awarded the 2019 Review of English Studies Essay Prize for the best article by a current or recent postgraduate student across all fields of English literature.

Fergus works on nineteenth-century poetry and its interactions with philosophy, theology, and psychology. His thesis looks at ‘the ways in which the pursuit of knowledge is frustrated or eschewed in Victorian poetry, exploring how knowing may be imagined as consolation or trap, encounter or possession, stimulus or hindrance to inquiry’.

Fergus’s essay, ‘Clough, Emerson, and Knowingness’, shows how the poetry of Arthur Hugh Clough is shaped by the poet’s complex personal and intellectual relationship with the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, drawing on Clough’s papers held at the Bodleian Library.

The judges commended the essay’s ‘ambitious and persuasive argument’, describing it as an ‘impressive feat of sustained close reading’ which ‘skilfully demonstrates how Clough’s suspicion of “knowingness”, and his determination to expose it to the solvents of encounter and experience, is articulated in the diction, allusions, rhythms, and rhymes of his verse’.

The full article is free to read online here.

Fergus read Theology at Trinity College, Cambridge and English at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. He returned to Trinity to do an MPhil in modern literature before joining Magdalen in 2017 and will take up a Junior Research Fellowship at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge later this year.