College of Liberal Arts

Keene Prize for Literature


Mr. E. L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, envisioned a prize that would honor and support the pursuit of great American writing, and through his estate made possible the Keene Prize in Literature.

In establishing this prize, Mr. Keene hoped "to encourage the writing and publishing of good American Literature, to lend financial support to the creators of such literature, and to enhance the prestige and reputation in the world market of American writers both now and in the future." According to Mr. Keene's wishes, the recipient of this prize will be selected from among those who create "the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm."

In addition, the winner will be the student who demonstrates "the greatest artistic merit and narrative mastery of the English language and has shown the greatest promise of becoming a professional writer, as judged by the Scholarship Committee of the College of Liberal Arts."


Poetry, drama, fiction, and non-fictional prose.


As mandated by Mr. Keene's will, the Judges of the Prize will be the Dean of Liberal Arts, the Chair of the Department of English, the Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Director of the University of Texas Press, and an author who is resident in Austin.


The winner of the Keene Prize will receive $50,000. A further $50,000 will be divided between three runners-up.


All undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin are eligible to compete, with the exception of previous winners of the prize. Entrants must be enrolled during the semester of submission, Spring 2016.

Electronic Submissions

Applicants should submit electronically, in a single document, a collection of poetry, a complete play, or a work of prose, plus a separate curriculum vitae. Submissions should be original work, demonstrating superior expression and craftsmanship. Work may not have been published before September 1, 2015. Only one submission per applicant please.

Deadline and Submission Procedure

By January 22, 2016 (Friday) please submit TWO separate electronic documents, your entry and CV, to The CV must contain the following information: author's name, title of entry, address, phone number, e-mail address, current standing at the University, and UT EID. Very Important: The entry itself should contain no identifying markers except the title. If it does so it will not be accepted. Pages should be numbered and proofread.
  • Poetry - Minimum 10 pages, maximum 30 pages. May be one poem or a collection of poems.
  • Play - Use standard play format. 17,000 words maximum.
  • Prose – Minimum 7,500 words, maximum 12,500 words. May be one work, an extract from a longer work, or a compilation of shorter works.
  • Non-fictional Prose – same as above.


2014 Competition Results

Mark Hitz, a graduate student in the James A. Michener Center for Writers, won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for his two stories: “Shadehill" and "The Laws of Motion."

The Keene Prize is one of the world's largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 is divided among three finalists. The recipients are all graduate students in the James A. Michener Center for Writers.


Mark Hitz, a first year student at the Michener Center, won the $50,000 Keene Prize for hisshort stories, "Shadehill" and "The Laws of Motion".  Both stories vividly evoke complex families that encounter catastrophe; in Shadehill the catastrophe involves the tragically timely question of the automatic American reverence for firearms.


Alen Hamza, graduate of the Michener Center, is a finalist for his collection of poetry, "Twice there Was a Country". Alen’s work combines linguistic playfulness with high seriousness, and demonstrates his deep indebtedness to literature from Shakespeare to Ashbery.


Rachel Kondo, first year student at the Michener Center, is a finalist for her short story "Beverly", an atmospheric evocation of Hawai’i during the Vietnam War that sympathetically explores the relationship between an army volunteer and his disabled younger sister.


Corey Miller, graduate of the Michener Center, is third time Keene finalist, this time for his collection of poems "Onyxed Eden". The centerpiece of this fine collection is a learned and allusive journey to the underworld of a coalmine. 

“The jury found it hard to select the winners from among so many moving, exciting and beautifully written entries, but we were all compelled by Mark’s evocation of catastrophic situations disrupting apparently successful families,” says Elizabeth Cullingford, professor and chair in the Department of English.

Previous Results

2006 - 2008