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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 4, 2008

Small will accept Capote Award in Sept. 18 event at the University of Iowa

Helen Small, a faculty member of Pembroke College, Oxford University, will accept the 2008 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin and speak about issues in literary criticism in a free, public event at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the University of Iowa campus. A reception will follow.

Small's "The Long Life," published in the fall of 2007 by Oxford University Press, was selected for the $30,000 Capote Award, the largest annual cash prize for literary criticism in the English language. The award is administered for the Truman Capote Estate by the UI Writers' Workshop.

"The Long Life" was chosen by an international panel of prominent critics and writers -- Terry Castle, Garrett Stewart, Michael Wood, John Kerrigan, Elaine Scarry and James Wood -- each of whom nominated two books. Books of general literary criticism in English, published during the last four years, are eligible for nomination. After reading all the nominated books, each critic ranked the nominees.

"The Long Life" examines old age in literature and moral philosophy by inviting readers to range widely from the writings of Plato through to recent philosophical work by Derek Parfit, Bernard Williams and others, and from Shakespeare's "King Lear" through literary works by Thomas Mann, Balzac, Dickens, Beckett, Stevie Smith and Philip Larkin, to more recent writing by Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and J. M. Coetzee.

Small argues that if we want to understand old age we have to think more fundamentally about what it means to be a person, to have a life, to have (or lead) a good life and to be part of a just society.

Small is the author of "Love's Madness: Medicine, the Novel, and the Female Insanity, 1800-1865," and the editor or co-editor of books including "Literature, Science, Psychoanalysis, 1830-1970, Essays in Honour of Gillian Beer," "Practice and Representation of Reading in England," "Public Intellectual," and editions of works by Dickens, Menie Muriel Dowie and George Eliot.

The Truman Capote Estate announced the establishment of the Truman Capote Literary Trust in 1994, during a breakfast at Tiffany's in New York City, on the 40th anniversary of the publication of Capote's novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Past winners of the Capote Award have been British scholar P.N. Furbank, Helen Vendler of Harvard University, John Felstiner of Stanford University, John Kerrigan of Cambridge University, pianist/scholar Charles Rosen of the University of Chicago, Elaine Scarry and Philip Fisher of Harvard University, Malcolm Bowie of Oxford University, Declan Kiberd of University College, Dublin, Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Susan Stewart of Princeton University, Angus Fletcher of the City University of New York Graduate School, Geoffrey Hartman of Yale University and William Gass of Washington University in St. Louis.

In addition to the administration of the literary criticism award, the Writers' Workshop involvement with the trust includes awarding Truman Capote Fellowships to UI students in creative writing.

The establishment of the Truman Capote Literary Trust was stipulated in the author's will, and the Annual Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin reflects Capote's frequently expressed concern for the health of literary criticism in the English language. The awards are designed to reward and encourage excellence in the field.

Newton Arvin, in whose memory the award was established, was one of the critics Capote admired. However, Arvin's academic career at Smith College was destroyed in the late 1940s when his homosexuality was exposed.

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Explore the writing programs at the UI at

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,