Program News

McGurl's 'The Program Era' Wins Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism

October 7, 2011

The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, written by UCLA English faculty member Mark McGurl and published by the Harvard University Press, is the winner of the 2011 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 Truman Capote Estate by the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

McGurl accepted the award October 6, 2011, at the Old Capitol Senate Chamber at the University of Iowa.

The book was chosen by an international panel of prominent critics and writers -- Terry Castle, Garrett Stewart, Michael Wood, John Kerrigan, Elaine Scarry and Elaine Showalter -- 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.

"I am truly honored by this award, and delighted by the irony that it is made in the name of a wonderful writer, Truman Capote, who contradicts most of the generalizations about postwar American fiction made in my book," McGurl said. "I'm proud to think that I have helped moved the conversation about creative writing and the university forward a few steps, and shed new light on recent literary history, but humbled by this reminder that contemporary literature is a much larger and richer enterprise than any one book or critic could grasp."

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.

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.