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University of Iowa News Release


April 15, 2009

Geoffrey Hill wins 2009 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism

"Critical Writings" by Geoffrey Hill, published by the Oxford University Press, is the winner of the 2009 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin. The $30,000 award -- the largest annual cash prize in English-language literary criticism -- is administered for the Capote Estate by the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

"Collected Critical Writings" 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.

Gerald Dawe wrote in the Irish Times that the essay collection "takes the reader on a soaring trip through the greats of classical and modern English literature . . . the moral dignity and scholarly authority Hill brings to his subjects is quite simply breath-taking."

John Casey wrote in the The Tablet, "One has a sense of a powerful intellectual and spiritual centre, an inner coherence, a philosophy that grows out of a continuously intelligent engagement with the culture."

Hill is the author of a dozen books of poetry and is considered one of the most distinguished poets of his generation. From 1988 to 2006 he taught literature and religion at Boston University, where he was a co-director of the Editorial Institute, and he is also an honorary fellow of Keble College at Oxford, Emmanuel College at Cambridge and the Royal Society of Literature. In the United States he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A. N. Wilson has called him "probably the best writer alive, in verse or in prose."

His books of essays, preceding the "Collected Critical Writings," were "The Lords of Limit," "The Enemy's Country" and "Style and Faith."

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; William Gass of Washington University in St. Louis; and Helen Small of Pembroke College, Oxford University.

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

Iowa City, the home of the UI, was recently designed an international City of Literate by the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and has joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Learn more 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, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,; Jennifer Clark, Oxford University Press,