Governors’ Research Project Prize

The Governors’ Research Project Prize is an opportunity for Upper School students to enrich their learning through the undertaking of a research project on a topic they have not formally covered in class.

This has the dual benefit of developing, extending and enriching the student’s experience of her/his studies in a subject, and creating an opportunity to learn the key requirements of formally presenting individual academic research. This year we received around 30 entries with a diverse range of titles. The judging panel of teachers read and discuss the scripts and decide on a shortlist of six students who are invited to sit a viva with the Headmaster and members of the School’s governing board. There is a cash prize for the winner and runners-up. For students going into Year 13 this is a great way of demonstrating to universities the ability to work independently. The experience of a viva, where students are questioned closely on a topic they have researched in great depth, proves to be fantastic preparation for future academic interviews too.

Our 2019 Governor's Research Project Prize winner was Eve, with a project entitled: How far do translations shape our understanding of ancient literature?

Our 2019 runners-up were:

  • Anna, with a project entitled: 'A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster.'To what extent can we consider Euripides'  the Bacchae and Angela Carter's the Bloody Chamber and Other Stories to present 'monstrous' women as liberated?
  • Theo, with a project entitled: How can statistically-rigorous rating systems, such as Elo and Glicko-2, expose glaring limitations to our current exercise of the democratic process?

Select a tab, below, to read their project abstracts. Parents and pupils with access to the Hub can read the full-length essays here (please note that you may be asked to logon). 

1 Carter, A. (1978, 2015). The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History. 14th ed. London: Virago.

Eve's Abstract

Translations are the lens through which we access the ancient world. Translation fascinates me; the study of it bridges linguistic knowledge, literature, and philosophy to question how languages inform our lives. Translations of ancient literature are to me a clearly interpreted form of reception, yet they continue to be traditionally presented as inferior ways to access original texts. In this essay, I seek to determine how far translations shape our understanding of ancient literature and thereby the ancient world itself. I firstly discuss the context of translations, as ‘inferior versions’ of a text, and how this affects the ways in which they shape our understanding. Secondly, I demonstrate that translations are not simply a vehicle to access to the text but offer distinctly different readings which shape our understanding of a text in contrasting ways by comparing two extracts from English translations of the Aeneid by John Dryden and David West. Finally, I compare translations with other forms of literary reception; literary reception can shift the perspective on ancient literature radically whilst translations shift the landscape of the text itself. Translations and other literary reception can also function together, inextricably linked, as with Catullus, to shape our understanding of ancient literature. Ultimately, I conclude that translations shape our understanding of ancient literature to a significant extent; although this shaping may be more nuanced, the unique position of translations allows them to shape understanding in more surprising and unexpected ways than other forms of literary reception.

Anna's Abstract

Before reading Euripides’ the Bacchae, my understanding of the maenads as violent women driven to madness by Dionysus led me to anticipate their unambiguous dismissal as merely monstrous pawns. I instead was surprised and gratified by the seemingly utopic visions of the maenads performing miracles of nature, independent of, and able to protect themselves from, men.

Being aware of diverse interpretations of the play, I wanted to investigate whether my instincts of the maenads being liberated were grounded. In order to provide a multi-faceted argument that would challenge me to work in less conventional corners of the text, I decided to compare the Bacchae to Carter’s the Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, both texts being concerned with complex presentations of gender, sexuality and liberation. This also providing an opportunity to ask whether a male voice of 5th century BC Greece could genuinely subvert misogynistic portrayals of women in the same way that a 20th century female writer might.

I further considered the concept of liberation through various lights, discussing monstrosity as the liberation from oppressive patriarchal norms, the denial of the female libido, and the performative nature of femininity. My argument was informed by a wide variety of sources, including contemporary critics, philosophy, Greek art and contemporary novels, that allowed me to build layers of diverse voices upon my own. As the texts are so complex, my essay evolved through the reflection on challenges to my argument and the subsequent conclusion that acknowledged such inevitable nuances.

Theo's Abstract

In 2016, the Democratic and Republican nominees for the US Presidential Election were the most and second‐most disliked candidates out of the pool of choices; Clinton’s disapproval rating reaching 53% and Trump’s, a historic 60% (May 2016)¹. The result was a Presidential Election that fiercely commanded the engagement of both extremes on the political spectrum², but left countless feeling unwilling to back either candidate.

Outcomes like this are not a recent development. People typically vote for the candidate that best suits their interests, which is almost always either the distinctly socialist or the distinctly conservative choiceᶟ ⁴ ⁵. While perhaps the aggregate of voters would be content with a more moderate candidate, those toward the centre must contend with a firm degree of political bias in current formulations of the voting system⁶.

Often, this leads to political parties with radically differing ideals being frequently rotated in and out of office⁴ ⁷, encouraging shortsighted policy‐making, a reduction in market optimism⁸, and fiscal policy that ignores the interests of large proportions of society. The dilemma we face is trying to identify a better way to process the input of the voter⁹. One particular way, of which I evidence the merit, involves the retrofitting of a system originally used to rank chess players into the unlikely environment of 21st Century politics.

By creating a data‐crunching computer program, I have shown that the voting system’s margin of error in gauging the will of the people may be as high as 25%.

_________________________________

References

1 Poll conducted by ABC News, URL: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump‐clinton‐poisedbattle‐disliked‐nominees‐decades/story?id=39306014 [Referenced in online publication] [Accessed 26th August 2019]

2 Poll conducted by Gallup News, URL: https://news.gallup.com/poll/197828/record‐highamericans‐perceive‐nation‐divided.aspx?_ga=2.94856476.1406431259.15668441781727466844.1566844178 [Accessed 26th August 2019]

3 (The majority of US Presidents and British Prime Ministers have been representatives of the Republic, Democratic, Conservative, Labour and Tory parties, not even evaluating those
who have belonged to other far‐leaning parties such as the Whigs).

4 List of US presidents, Official Government Website URL: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about‐thewhite‐house/presidents/ [Accessed 26th August 2019]

5 List of UK Prime Ministers, Official Government Website URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past‐prime‐ministers [Accessed 26th August 2019]

6 This claim is made in reference to the previous line; how, as no‐one maximises their personal benefit by electing a moderate, moderates don’t get elected.

7 The last four US Presidents have entered an office previously held by their party opposition. 

8 Fluctuating economic conditions generate uncertainty.

9 This is a reference to democracies in general, not specifically the US or UK.