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Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism and Letters


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Created as a result of Joseph Pulitzer's bequest of $2,000,000 to found the Columbia University School of Journalism, with the income from $500,000 of that sum to be devoted to annual prizes “for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education.” Pulitzer's will established four categories of American literature: novel, play, U.S. history, and American biography. The will empowered an Advisory Board, which was reti-tled the Pulitzer Prize Board (1979), to alter these categories or to create new ones. Its annually appointed juries for each of the categories make their nominations to the Advisory Board, which may accept or reject them or even substitute its own choices. The Advisory Board (until 1950 associated with the School of Journalism) passes its nominations to the Board of Trustees of Columbia University (in 1975 the Trustees delegated their power to the University president), which can accept or reject nominations but cannot make substitutions. The Advisory Board has the power to withhold awards if nominees do not meet its unpublished criteria. Prizes for novels, plays, U.S. history, and American biography were established in 1917, but that year no works were judged acceptable in the first two categories. Prizes for poetry were first established for the year 1922, but Columbia University gave its approval to prizes granted in 1918 and 1919 by the Poetry Society of America. With the powers granted to it, the Advisory Board in 1947 redefined the award for novels to “fiction in book form” so that it might select for the award of 1948 a work comprised of short stories. In 1962 it created a new category: general nonfiction. The dollar value of the prizes has varied over the years but has been $1000 since 1968.

Subjects: Literature.


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