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On the Bright Side

February 24, 2014

Jefferson native wins SUNY-wide essay contest

Christy Harasimowicz, a junior at the State University College at Oneonta, said the prize money she received for her award-winning essay will most likely be saved for next semester’s course books. 

Harasimowicz, 21, of Jefferson, is the winner of a SUNY-wide essay contest sponsored by educational publishing company Gale Cengage. Her essay was the top choice for the best undergraduate essay using the new Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) database, an online research database that SUNY Oneonta is using on a trial basis. According to contest officials, Harasimowicz’s essay was one of more than 50 entries.

Harasimowicz, an English major, said she was surprised and excited when she heard in January that her eight-page essay, entitled “Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded: Justification of Masculine Activity and the Avenue to Virtue” had won the contest. Her prize, she said, was a cool $250. 

The essay was written for an English Literature class last semester, taught by Jonathan Sadow, and took Harasimowicz more than three weeks to complete, she said. This included time taken to carefully research her topic using the ECCO database, she said, which provides students with access to hundreds of 18th century primary documents at the click of a mouse.

The novel that inspired Harasimowicz’s essay was “Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded” by Samuel Richardson. Harasimowicz said the book, first published in 1740, tells the story of a young, poor servant girl whose master tries to seduce and corrupt her using his power and manipulation. Eventually, both Pamela and her master realize they are earnestly falling in love and get married, allowing Pamela several rewards for the virtue she held onto: a sincere romance and an upper-class lifestyle.

At first, Harasimowicz said, she was struck with how manipulative the character of the master had been. However, after using the ECCO database to take a closer look at several conduct books written in that time period, she learned more about the norms regarding servant and courtship behavior and realized the man was acting in a way that was typical for the time.

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