John Matteson ’86 is one of eight writers selected to win the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters, Drama and Music. An associate professor of English at John Jay College, Matteson was recognized for his biography, “Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father.”
“I figured three prank phone calls on the same subject in the same day? It just couldn’t be,” said Matteson, according to the Associated Press. “I am just beside myself with joy.”
In his book, Matteson follows the lives of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson Alcott through two notable but short-lived educational and social experiments: the Temple School and the utopian community of Fruitlands.
Louisa May Alcott is widely known as the author of “Little Women,” but in his book Matteson turned his attention to the father, Bronson Alcott, a self-educated philosopher and controversial education reformer who was one of the earliest Transcendentalists.
Matteson says his 14-year-old daughter was an inspiration for his book. “Not only did I understand parenting better after writing the book, but being a parent helped me to write the book,” he said.
Several other HLS alumni have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize: James A. McPherson ’68 for his collection of short stories “Elbow Room” (1978); James B. Stewart ’76, for explanatory journalism on the stock market crash (1988); Archibald MacLeish ’19 for poetry in “Conquistador” (1933), “Collected Poems 1917-1952” (1953), and drama in “J.B.” (1959). And, most recently, Samantha Power ’99 won the prize for “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” (2003).