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Release: April 2, 1999

Pianist, National Book Award winner Charles Rosen captures 1999 Capote Award at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen" by internationally renowned pianist and music scholar Charles Rosen is the 1999 winner of the Annual Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin. Administered by the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, the $50,000 award is the world's largest annual cash prize for literary criticism.

Rosen, an emeritus professor of social thought at the University of Chicago, will receive the award in a ceremony at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 15 in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the UI campus in Iowa City. The event, which will include an address by Rosen, is free and open to the public. The award will be presented to Rosen by Alan Schwartz, co-trustee of the Capote Literary Trust.

Rosen, who won the National Book Award in 1972 for "The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven," built his scholarly reputation for probing musical analysis, while also becoming a highly respected pianist particularly renowned for his interpretations of Romantic composers. Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer wrote in Stagebill magazine, "Charles Rosen is the best informed of all pianists, and among scholars of music, he is by far the best pianist."

But Rosen also has studied and taught literature, and in "Romantic Poets, Critics and Other Madmen" he draws together his abiding interests in an examination of the attitudes and principles of Romantic criticism, and the aesthetic and philosophical convergences of Romantic poetry and music.

Paul Seydor wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, "It is rare to find a critic who allies passion with precision, enthusiasm with intelligence, who is a masterly close reader yet can take a synoptic view that pulls together and unifies large areas of experience. Charles Rosen is such a critic . . . Rosen's style is so elegant, his manner so convivial, that any reader for whom a critical response to art is nearly as vital as the experience of art itself should find these essays engaging."

Reed Woodhouse wrote of "Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen" in the Boston Book Review, "It is the work of a worthy successor to the many figures of genius he so sympathetically honors in this book."

The book, published by Harvard University Press in 1998, was selected for the Capote Award by an international panel of prominent critics and writers -- Peter Sacks, Stephen Greenblatt, 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 winner was determined by a tally of the votes.

The panelists' choice was reviewed and confirmed by the award's administrative committee: Frank Conroy, director of the UI Writers' Workshop; workshop faculty member Jorie Graham, winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in poetry; and fiction writer, philosopher and critic William Gass, head of the International Writing Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

The 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 Capote's novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Among the breakfast guests were John Updike, George Plimpton, Mary Tyler Moore, Patricia Neal, Dominick Dunne, Geoffrey Holder and Richard Avedon.

In addition to the administration of the literary criticism award, the Writers' Workshop involvement with the trust includes the awarding of Truman Capote Fellowships to UI students in creative writing. Awards and scholarships were also established at Stanford University.

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 UI and Stanford were selected to administer the awards and receive the scholarships because, Schwartz explained, they are "the two most important centers for creative writing."

The first of the university-based creative writing programs that have collectively transformed the terrain of American literary life, the UI Writers' Workshop has nurtured poets and fiction writers for more than 60 years. UI alumni have won more than a dozen Pulitzer Prizes, have been honored with virtually every other American literary award, and count among their number many of America's most popular and critically acclaimed writers.