Recent Graduate Francesca Hearing Wins Gapper Undergraduate Essay Prize

  • Francesca Hearing standing in front of a coastline
16 February, 2021

Francesca Hearing, who graduated from Oriel last year, has won the 2020 R. Gapper Undergraduate Essay Prize for her piece on Francophone writers and the Mediterranean Sea.

The prize – which includes £250, expenses-paid travel to the next annual conference of the Society for French Studies, and mention in the French Studies Bulletin – is awarded each year by the Society for French Studies to the best essay submitted by an undergraduate student at any university in the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland.

Francesca’s essay explored how contemporary Francophone writers have presented the Mediterranean Sea as a space of transformation and recovery for those in bordering countries. “The sea becomes a site of infinite possibilities and fluid identities”, she explains, “offering connection, solitude, and escape from the binaries of society. At the same time, I think it’s important to balance these constructive representations of the Mediterranean Sea with an understanding of its significance today, in the lives of many displace people, as a site of dangerous, criminalised, but forced travel.”

She says, “I was really lucky to prepare for the essay by studying innovative texts with a wonderful group of tutors (Jennifer Yee, Jane Hiddleston, and Katherine Ibbett) and students. I feel very grateful to the French Society for their recognition!”

Francesca is currently working for an international charity in women’s health policy and advocacy.

You can read more about the Gapper prize here.