WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
An international literary quarterly published since 1927 at the University of Oklahoma (OU), World Literature Today serves as the centerpiece for a variety of cultural publications, activities, and programs that have come to assume a role as a humanities center on the Norman campus. Currently located in Monnet Hall, former site of the University of Oklahoma's School of Law, the editorial offices of the magazine have occupied a number of sites on campus since the publication's establishment as Books Abroad in 1927. Founding editor Roy Temple House, a Nebraska native and a distinguished professor of German at OU, created the journal to offer coverage of literature from all corners of the globe. He intended to counter what he perceived as an impending threat to the United States: A growing political and cultural isolationism on the part of the government and its citizens with regard to the rest of the world. Accordingly, for the guiding epigraph of the publication he selected a passage from noted German author Wolfgang von Goethe's Über Kunst und Alterthum (1828; On Art and Antiquity): "These journals, as they reach a wider public, will contribute most effectively to the universal world literature for which we are hoping. There can be no question, however, of nations thinking alike. The aim is simply that they shall grow aware of one another, and, even where they may not be able to love, may at least tolerate one another." In 1977 the journal became World Literature Today.
World Literature Today maintains three highly acclaimed affiliated programs: The Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Puterbaugh Conferences on World Literature, and the recently created NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. The fifty-thousand-dollar Neustadt Prize, established in 1969, justifies its ascription by the French as "the American Nobel" in that twenty-three writers from among the Neustadt's jurors, candidates, or laureates have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. For more than three decades the Puterbaugh Conferences on World Literature have featured living "classics" among writers worldwide who visit the University of Oklahoma for a series of lectures and public readings. The program culminates with a symposium that includes noted scholars, editors, translators, and fellow writers. The twenty-five-thousand-dollar NSK Neustadt Children's Prize, although established only in 2003, is one of the few awards of its kind emanating from the United States for which authors and illustrators of all genres of children's and young-adult literature are eligible.
Throughout its seventy-eight-year history World Literature Today has evolved in its coverage and format from a thirty-two-page pamphletlike publication for mostly professionals in the areas of literature and linguistics into a colorful magazine with numerous and diverse features. The magazine still entices a broader and larger readership of academics and nonspecialists alike. World Literature Today remains among the oldest literary publications in the United States.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert Con Davis-Undiano, "Back to the Essay: World Literature Today in the Twenty-First Century," World Literature Today 74 (Winter 2000). Roy Temple House, "Foreword to Our First Issue By the Editor," Books Abroad 1 (January 1927). Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939). "A New Attitude for a Grand Old Journal," Sooner Magazine 22 (Summer 2002).
David Draper Clark
© Oklahoma Historical Society