Master of Arts (MA)
Mark R Harris
Primary Subject Area
Literature, Comparative; Literature, Modern
Alfred Nobel, American Authors, Charles Simic, Edward Albee, John Updike, Nobel Prize in Literature
After the Swedish Academy announced that Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, former permanent secretary Horace Engdahl sparked controversy with his comment that the "US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature . . . That ignorance is restraining." This thesis evaluates the legitimacy of Engdahl's criticism by considering three American authors: John Updike, Edward Albee, and Charles Simic. Each author is evaluated as a contributor to international literary dialogue. The author, drawing from Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History," describes contemporary American literature as civil documents of barbarism and, inversely, works of witness literature as barbaric documents of civilization. The author calls for the conterminous reading of both documents in order to further improve international literary dialogue, and the author exhorts the Swedish Academy to laurel writers of both types of documents with the Nobel Prize in Literature as a means of encouraging such dialogue.