Campus & Community

Elaine Scarry and Philip Fisher Share Capote Literary Award

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Scarry (above) and Fisher.</p>

Literary critics Elaine Scarry and Philip Fisher will share the 2000 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin, the largest annual cash prize for literary criticism in the English language, administered for the Truman Capote Estate by the University of Iowa (UI) Writers’ Workshop. Scarry is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value; Fisher is the Felice Crowl Reid Professor of English and American Literature.

The $50,000 prize will be awarded in a free, public ceremony at 5 p.m., Monday, April 17, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the UI campus. Fisher will be honored for his book Still the New World and Scarry will be honored for Dreaming by the Book. The event will include brief addresses by both writers.

The books were selected for the Capote Award by an international panel of prominent critics and writers – Peter Sacks, Stephen Greenblatt, K. Anthony Appiah, Richard Poirier, J.M. Coetzee and Michael 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, and the winners were determined by a tally of the votes. This is the first year the Capote Award judging has produced a tie.

Dreaming by the Book was published in 1999 by Farrar Strauss & Giroux. Scarry’s other books include The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, On Beauty and Being Just, Literature and the Body, Memory, Brain and Belief, and Resisting Representation.

In Dreaming by the Book, Scarry addresses the slippery question of how poems and stories make us perceive what they describe. Wendy Lesser, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the book “a willfully, maddeningly, inventively, surprisingly, exhaustingly kooky book…. Scarry’s mind is well worth grappling with.”

Fisher’s books include Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences and Making and Effacing Art: Modern American Art in a Culture of Museums.

Still the New World was published in 1999 by the Harvard University Press. Critic George Kateb described the book as “a bold and original interpretation of what is distinctively American in the realm of culture. Fisher’s emphasis on ‘creative destruction’ as the source of America’s continuous strangeness and freshness is greatly rewarding. He lights up whole areas of cultural inquiry in a marvelously succinct way.”