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  • F02

    “Greenwich Meridian of Literature”? The Nobel Prize as a Global Standard of Comparing

    Nobelpreisurkunde von Luise Glück
    © The Nobel Foundation 2020, Calligrapher: Susan Duvnäs, Book binder: Leonard Gustafssons Bokbinderi AB, Photo reproduction: Lovisa Engblom

F02 | “Greenwich Meridian of Literature”? The Nobel Prize as a Global Standard of Comparing


The Nobel Prize in Literature, first awarded in 1901, is the world’s most recognizable literary award. It not only points to the existence of a global literary field, but has long helped constitute, stabilize, and structure that field. Our project, situated at the meeting point of literary history, the sociology of cultural prizes, and recent scholarship on the practices of comparing, seeks to reconstruct the Nobel Prize in Literature as an institution that forms diverse, largely normative, cultural practices into distinct communities of practice that serve to render literature comparable on a global level.

In this way, the Nobel Prize has played a crucial role in literature’s globalization, connecting areas of literary activity and interest across languages, cultures, and nations. It can be seen as a complex, reflexive, and recurring practice of comparing that in turn renders distinct literary works comparable. In purporting to evaluate authors and works situated in very different political, social, and cultural contexts according to common criteria, the Nobel Prize in Literature has become an institution of global comparison, promoting “universal” standards. This project will bring together individual case studies under the overarching question of the globalization of the literary field.

The project F02 is divided into two individual archive-based projects, in addition to a third, theoretically oriented project led by the two principal investigators.

1. Formations of Practice in the Swedish Academy, 1895 to ca. 1930 (Max Richter)

2. Formations of Practice in the German Literary Publishing Industry After 1945 (Sarah Nienhaus)

3. International Awards, Global Practices of Comparing (Jørgen Sneis and Carlos Spoerhase)

Project Management

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Jørgen Sneis

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Carlos Spoerhase

Academic Co-worker

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Sarah Alice Nienhaus

© Philipp Ottendörfer

Max Richter

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