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Discourse Series: The Nobel Prize and the idea of the universal


Tuesday, October 17, 2023, 18:00 - 19:30


Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2


Free (in-person): booking is essential

Delivered by Anders Olsson, Chair of the Nobel Committee. This Discourse will discuss the universal aims of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In this lecture, Professor Olsson will discuss the universal aims of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Prize is and has always been considered a universal prize. This is perhaps its unique, prestigious and everywhere acknowledged property. In The World Republic of Letters Pascale Casanova even writes: “There is no better measure of the unification of the international literary field than the effectively universal respect commanded by this prize.” How effective the prize is to unify the literary world is open to debate.

Professor Olsson's lecture will try to clarify the different and changing meanings of the universal in the history of the Prize, characterized by conflicting interpretations of the donor’s will of 1895. He will stress the importance of critical self-examination and show the slow and gradual transition of the Prize from a European to a global horizon during the 20th century. But his lecture will also show how the Prize in this development becomes more in tune with the developments of modern literature. Professor Olsson's lecture will finally touch upon the possible conflict between the autonomy of aesthetic judgment and the widely spread questioning of universal values in the public debate today.

Our speaker:

Anders Olsson is a literary historian and author. His own works include seven collections of poetry, and he earned his doctorate with a dissertation about the works of Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf. Anders is professor emeritus in literature at Stockholm University, and his research has examined fundamental elements in the development of modern literature. He has written some fifteen books on poetry and the history of literature and is also active as a critic. In 2008 he was elected to the Swedish Academy, and he served as its Permanent Secretary during 2018-2019.


Anne Fuchs MRIA FBA is Professor of German and Director of the Humanities Institute at University College Dublin.

Please note:

We ask that you arrive to 19 Dawson Street no later than 5.50pm so that we can ensure everyone is seated before the Discourse begins at 6pm. Late-comers will not be admitted.

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