Professor John Gaddis, alumni win Pulitzer Prizes

John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History, has been awarded a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his book “George F. Kennan: An American Life” (Penguin Press).

Four Yale alumni have also received Pulitzers this year.

John Lewis Gaddis

“George F. Kennan” won in the Biography category. In its award citation, the Pulitzer committee described his book as “an engaging portrait of a globetrotting diplomat whose complicated life was interwoven with the Cold War and America’s emergence as the world’s dominant power.”

The book — which previously won the 2012 biography award from The National Book Critics Circle — examines the life and influence of statesman Kennan, an architect of the Marshall Plan, who also proposed the strategy of containment that defined the United States’ policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. While working on the book, Gaddis held numerous interviews with Kennan and was given exclusive access to his archives. The New York Times previously named “George F. Kennan” as a Notable Book of the Year.

Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History, is one of the nation’s most prominent historians of the Cold War and a leading authority on national security and international relations. At Yale, he is also director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and professor of political science. He received a National Humanities Medal in 2005.

The Yale historians’ numerous other books include “The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947”; “Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security”; “The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War”; “We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History”; “The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past”; “Surprise, Security, and the American Experience”; and “The Cold War: A New History.”

Alumni winners

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners also included three Yale alumni:

Stephen Greenblatt ‘64, ‘69 Ph.D., who garnered an award in the General Nonfiction category for “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” (W.W. Norton and Company), which the Pulitzer committee descrbed as “a provocative book arguing that an obscure work of philosophy, discovered nearly 600 years ago, changed the course of history by anticipating the science and sensibilities of today.”

Quiara Alegría Hudes ‘99, who won in the Drama category for “Water by the Spoonful,” described as “an imaginative play about the search for meaning by a returning Iraq war veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia.”

Wesley Moris ‘97 of The Boston Globe, who was honored in the Criticism category for “his smart, inventive film criticism, distinguished by pinpoint prose and an easy traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office.”

Kevin Puts ’96 M.M., who received a Pulitzer in the Music category for “Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts,” a work commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis, with libretto by Mark Campbell, which the committee described as “a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French, and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart.”

Based at Columbia University, the Pulitzer Prizes are named in honor of the pioneering 19th-century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Each prize carries a $10,000 cash award.

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