Interview with Balázs Zsuzsanna
You were the one of the two winners of the Ruttkay Essay Prize this year – were you surprised at the jury’s decision? Did it come as a surprise that you won again? Why?
Every competition is a new challenge with new talented competitors, so during the announcement of results, I was as much excited as two years ago, when I had submitted a paper for the first time. I can never take anything for granted, so every time I apply for a bursary or submit a paper to a conference or a competition, I feel uncertainties about the quality of my work and whether it is worthy enough of being submitted or presented anywhere. So yes, I was surprised again, because I knew that this year there were much more applicants than in 2013 and 2014, and it is always a bigger challenge to come out as a winner among a lot of very good papers than among two or three.
Why did you feel you wanted to compete? What made you submit another one of your papers this year? If you hesitated about the submission, what made you uncertain?
Strangely enough, this time I did not feel that. I wrote a comparative paper on the theme of hybridity in Junot Díaz’s “Fiesta, 1980” and Sherman Alexie’s “Every Little Hurricane” for Prof. Márta Pellérdi’s seminar. When she evaluated the papers, she asked whether I wanted to submit this essay to the Ruttkay Essay Prize, because she thought it was good enough for the competition. However, I did hesitate about the submission for three reasons. On the one hand, the paper required some refinement and modification, but that time I was preparing for my final examination in Italian Studies, and it was difficult to dedicate time to writing up essays. On the other hand, I felt that competing two times was more than enough. Also, I thought that my background knowledge of the topic was poor, and I didn’t want to come up with a superficial piece of writing. Yet I was aware that the organizers would be happy if more and more papers were submitted, and that the Department was always grateful for our participation, hence I finally decided to compete again.
This year the department was able to offer larger than ever financial support for the winners, 10 000 HUF each. Do you think the 10 000 HUF each of you received is encouraging enough? Why?
Personally, I never compete for the prospect of receiving money, but certainly it is also among the encouraging factors. I think what is really inspiring in the Ruttkay competition is the feedback you receive from your professors, their motivating words and the financial support altogether.
How high is this essay contest held among your fellow students? Is your achievement respected by your friends students (as much as you wish)?
As far as I can see, it is held in high esteem among them. My friends have supported and encouraged me since 2013 to participate, and fortunately, I feel that they respect these achievements. We very often discussed the topic and whether it was interesting enough, and sometimes they even read the paper for me before submission, which meant a lot, since it is from such reflections that we learn the most.
If you had to seek talented people at the Department, how would you invite and inspire them? How would you inspire those who had submitted papers already?
I think the Institute’s means of inspiring people is good enough in itself, because if there is a good seminar paper, the professors usually stimulate the writer to develop it into a paper for submission to the Ruttkay contest. Maybe the worth and the possibilities such a contest can open up for students should be much more emphasised in order to raise talented people’s attention. To start with, if one of your professors thinks that your paper could be submitted to this essay competition, it means you probably have outstanding writing skills which you can further develop. It might initiate a very good cooperation between a professor and a student, from which you can learn a lot. What’s more, you can freely develop your Ruttkay essay into an OTDK paper, thus it can refine your research skills as well in the long run.
Do you think the popularity of the Ruttkay-essay prize is growing or trending?
Yes, I’m definitely of the opinion that this prize is fairly popular among students at the Department.
Do you think this essay prize will look good on your CV as well?
Of course, and to be honest, it has already helped a lot in winning the Irish Embassy Bursary Award in March, 2015 (with which I could go to the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo), and it has also greatly contributed to my success in the Pro Scientia Gold Medal contest after the XXXII. OTDK in June, 2015.
In what way do you intend to use your excellent researching and writing skills in the foreseeable future? Third time’s a charm? :))
I would like to further elaborate my major research project, that is, the influences of Italian literature and culture on the works of W. B. Yeats, because I still feel that this is an incomplete research area, and there is still a lot to be done in this field of Yeats and comparative studies. In a year’s time, I wish to apply for a PhD Programme, so that I can delve really deeply into each considerable Italian author’s impact on Yeats’s work. The only question now is where to undertake this more serious research in the future. I love Pázmány, and it would be fantastic if I could stay here in Budapest, but no doubt, for someone involved in Yeats studies, an Irish university’s PhD Programme might be more appropriate and profitable for one or two reasons. I’m also considering the possibility of going to the University of Lille III, as it is one of the most remarkable and vivid centres for Irish Studies in France. Maybe through some kind of joint supervision I could remain connected to PPCU and an Irish university or Lille at the same time. I know for sure that this will be an extremely difficult decision to make, but fortunately, Prof. Michael McAteer helps me consider the various possibilities as regards my future research aspirations.
As to the Ruttkay contest, I do not intend to compete again. Three times were enough; I have learnt a lot from the feedback throughout these three years, and I am immensely grateful to the Institute that they have inspired me and supported my work this way as well. Now it’s about time to give the floor to the younger talented students, and motivate or even assist them in their work.