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Sykes Prize 2024

Humanity’s Place in Nature  

NATURE:     Did you perhaps imagine that the world was made for your benefit? Let me tell you that in my handiworks, in my arrangements and my operations, except very seldom, I always had and always have a mind to things quite other than the happiness of men or their unhappiness.

                                Leopardi, Nature and an Icelander

The Dialogue of Nature and an Icelander was written on 21, 27 and 30 May 1824 by Giacomo Leopardi. As Patrick Creagh observes, “Leopardi felt it to be the most precise and comprehensive summary of his views so far”, which were expressed in “two passionate protests against the human condition on the part of the Icelander, and two rejoinders by Nature”. A link to extracts from Leopardi’s Italian text, coupled with Creagh’s translation, can be found here.

Nearly two hundred years later, humanity is being forced to reconsider its place in the natural world. The indifference and majesty of Nature, so compellingly captured by Leopardi, has been replaced by an awareness of the reality of human destruction and the devastation of natural environments.

As such, the Robinson College Sykes Prize is encouraging responses to Leopardi’s text. Submissions can be in any written form that you choose (though not exceeding 2,000 words): stories, poems, film scripts, and graphic novels are all admissible.

A prize of £750 will be awarded to a current undergraduate or postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge for an original piece of writing. In addition to this, a runner-up award of £500 will be offered and two third-placed prizes (if the judges so decide) of £250

It is intended that successful entries will be published on the College website and/or in physical form. Closing date for submissions is the beginning of Lent term 2024 (5pm, Tuesday 16th January 2024) and entries are welcome in either English or Italian. Please send these entries to