Public Release: 

The Holberg Prize names Stephen Greenblatt as 2016 Laureate

The Holberg Prize Names American literature professor and Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt as 2016 Laureate

The University of Bergen


IMAGE: The Holberg Prize Names American Literature Professor and Shakespeare Scholar Stephen Greenblatt as 2016 Laureate. view more

Credit: Stephanie Mitchell

Today, The Holberg Prize -- the largest international prize awarded annually to an outstanding researcher in the arts and humanities, social science, law and theology -- named American author, scholar and literature professor Stephen Greenblatt as its 2016 laureate. Greenblatt is presently John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He will receive the financial award of NOK 4,500,000 (approx. USD 525,000) during a formal ceremony at the University of Bergen, Norway, on June 8, 2016.

Greenblatt will receive the prize for his distinctive and defining role in the field of literature and his influential voice in the humanities over four decades. He is regarded as one of the most important Shakespeare and Renaissance scholars of his generation. His scholarship has had an immeasurable impact on the practices of literary studies, history and cultural criticism, well beyond his own field of expertise.

Dr. Greenblatt describes his lifelong project as "opening literary studies to the historical, cultural and, in the broadest sense, anthropological energies that course through great works of art." "Art," he says, "is thoroughly bound up with the lives we lead, and, whether we know it or not, our lives are bound up with art." Greenblatt says he accepts the Prize with gratitude as recognition of the critical importance of the humanities in our everyday existence.

To date, Greenblatt has published more than a dozen books and numerous articles.

His most recent book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011) earned him a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and a National Book Award for Nonfiction. The book tells the story of how a 15th-century papal emissary unearthed a lost copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's On the Nature of Things, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age. In addition, Greenblatt is the General Editor of The Norton Shakespeare (2015) and the Norton Anthology of English Literature, to which he is also a contributor.

Greenblatt's most popular work remains the biography Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, which has been translated into 16 languages. His current project centres on the story of Adam and Eve -- a story that defined the way in which people for centuries understood the nature of their lives and served as the human origin story for three great world religions.

Regarded by many as the founder of New Historicism, Greenblatt has introduced key concepts to the literary field, such as "cultural poetics," alluding to a set of critical practices, and "self-fashioning," a concept that has illuminated the distinctiveness of the Renaissance as a historical period.

"Greenblatt's work has brilliantly opened up new ways to think about the Renaissance and Shakespeare," says Chair of the Holberg Academic Committee, Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

"In doing so he has also provided us a vocabulary through which we can approach the task of understanding our times and its history. The new methods he has fashioned have helped us understand the relationship between the word and the world, the text and the context. Greenblatt has also masterfully combined the practice of exacting scholarship with an ability to communicate with wider audiences."

Greenblatt received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1969. Following his graduation, he became Assistant Professor at University of California at Berkeley, where he became full Professor in 1979. He stayed at Berkeley until he took a position at Harvard University in 1997, where he was appointed John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities in 2000. Greenblatt is a founding editor of the literary-cultural journal Representations, established in 1983. In addition to the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award, his honours include the Modern Language Association's James Russell Lowell Prize (twice), Harvard University's Cabot Fellowship, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship (twice) and the Yale's Wilbur Cross Medal.



Greenblatt holds honorary doctoral degrees from Queen Mary College, University of London, and the University of Bucharest, Romania. He will also receive an honorary degree from The University of Alicante in 2016. Professor Greenblatt is a permanent Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also been President of the Modern Language Association.

Greenblatt has also been a visiting professor and lecturer at such institutions as the École des Hautes Études, the University of Florence, Kyoto University, the University of Oxford and Peking University.

This year, the Holberg Prize received 76 nominations, for a total of 74 candidates, from universities across the globe.

About the Holberg Prize

Established by the Norwegian Parliament in 2003, the Holberg Prize (@holbergprisen) is the largest annual international research prize awarded to scholars who have made outstanding contributions to research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology. The Prize is funded by the Government through a direct allocation from the Ministry of Education and Research to the University of Bergen (UiB). Previous winners include Julia Kristeva, Jürgen Habermas, Manuel Castells, Bruno Latour and Marina Warner. To learn more about the Holberg Prize and the call for nominations visit:

The Holberg Prize is named after writer, essayist, philosopher, historian and playwright Ludvig Holberg. Holberg was born in Bergen in 1684 and played an important part in bringing the Enlightenment to the Nordic countries.

Visit for press photos, biography, the official statement from the Committee and various background information

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.