Friday, September 8, 2023

R.A. Judy, professor of critical and cultural studies at the University of Pittsburgh, has been selected by the University of Iowa as the 2023 recipient of the Truman Capote Literary Trust Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin

A portrait of RA Judy
R.A. Judy

The $30,000 prize—the largest annual cash prize for English-language literary criticism—is administered by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on behalf of the estate of Truman Capote. A formal award ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. October 4 in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. The event will feature remarks by R.A. Judy and a reception in the Old Capitol Museum. Both events are open to the public.

Judy is honored for Sentient Flesh: Thinking in Disorder, Poiesis in Black, published by Duke University Press in 2020. The selection committee noted that the author’s contribution to intellectual life was significant decades before the work was published:

“Judy’s concern with the elemental entanglement of sentience, flesh, and semiosis, which Black thought, Black life, and Black art express and demonstrate in and against the grain of their suppression, incarceration, and genocidal regulation, and in the interest of a constant and irreducible disturbance of what Cedric Robinson calls ‘the terms of order’ that structure (the) world as politico-philosophical containment of earth are of the utmost importance. No one understands this importance, and no one has more faithfully, patiently, devotedly, and creatively illuminated it than Judy. His work as a philosopher, a literary and cultural critic, a teacher, an editor, and a colleague is a unique and emphatic announcement of what a certain fundamental strain of and in black studies has long been—namely the irruptive, disruptive turning and overturning of the ontological, metaphysical and epistemological foundations of modernity.”

Judy teaches courses in comparative literature, Black Critique, world literature with particular emphasis on Arabic, and African literature, as well as semiotics and literary theory. He is the author of (Dis)forming the American Canon: The Vernacular of African Arabic American Slave Narrative (1992) and has published numerous essays in the areas of philosophy, contemporary Islamic philosophy, literary/cultural theory, music, and Arabic and American literatures.

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. The creation of the 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.

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

The Truman Capote Literary Trust also generously awards fellowships to Writers' Workshop graduate students.

Past winners of the Capote Award:

2022    Heather Clark, University of Huddersfield

2021    Kay Ryan, College of Marin

2020    Fred Moten, New York University

2019    Brent Hayes Edwards, Columbia University

2018    Robert Hass, University of California, Berkeley

2017    Dame Gillian Beer, University of Cambridge

2016    Kevin Birmingham, Harvard College Writing Program

2015    Stanley Plumly, University of Maryland

2014    Fredric Jameson, Duke University

2013    Marina Warner, New York University Abu Dhabi

2012    Elaine Showalter, Princeton University

2011    Mark McGurl, University of California at Los Angeles

2010    Seth Lerer, University of California at San Diego

2009    Geoffrey Hill, Boston University

2008    Helen Small, Pembroke College, Oxford University

2007    William Gass, Washington University in St. Louis

2006    Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University

2005    Angus Fletcher, City University of New York Graduate School

2004    Susan Stewart, Princeton University

2003    Seamus Heaney, Irish Nobel laureate

2002    Declan Kiberd, University College, Dublin

2001    Malcolm Bowie, Oxford University

2000    Elaine Scarry and Philip Fisher, Harvard University

1999    Charles Rosen, University of Chicago

1998    John Kerrigan, Cambridge University

1997    John Felstiner, Stanford University

1996    Helen Vendler, Harvard University

1995    P.N. Furbank, Open University

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