Program News

Showalter's "A Jury of Her Peers" Wins Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism

August 30, 2012

A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, written by Elaine Showalter, professor emerita of English and Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and published by Knopf, is the winner of the 2012 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.

Showalter will accept the award on Friday, September 14, at 4:00 in the Old Capital Senate Chamber.

One of the founders of feminist literary criticism, Showalter has written and edited numerous books and articles on a variety of subjects, from Victorian literature to the history of psychiatry.

The book was chosen by an international panel of prominent critics and writers—Terry Castle, Garrett Stewart, Michael Wood, John Kerrigan, Elaine Scarry and Joyce Carol Oates—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’m deeply honored by this award,” Showalter says, “and proud to be included among the distinguished list of former winners. I think that Truman Capote, as the longtime friend of Harper Lee, would be happy to see the prize go to the first literary history of American women writers.”

In A Jury of Her Peers, Showalter writes about more than 250 women writers, including the famous—Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, and Toni Morrison, among others—and the little known, from the early American best-selling novelist Catherine Sedgwick to the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Susan Glaspell.

In the New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey called A Jury of Her Peers “capacious, engaging, and opinionated,” while Stephen Amidon in the London Sunday Times hailed it as a “superb study.” Alison Kelly in the Observerpraised a “magnificent, scholarly history of American women’s literature” which “carries its erudition lightly.” Elspeth Barker in the Literary Review called it a “prodigious undertaking ... written with a great generosity of spirit.” Katha Pollitt in Salon observed that “it’s a long book, but it doesn’t feel long at all because it is so full of information, ideas, stories, and characters.”

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 New