Editor's Note

By Simon, Daniel | World Literature Today, September/October 2016 | Go to article overview

Editor's Note


Simon, Daniel, World Literature Today


In a country as big as America it is as impossible to prophesy as it is to generalize, without being tripped up, but it seems to me that there is room for hope as well as mistrust. The epic loses all its glory without the dream. - James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931)

Throughout 2016, we've been celebrating World Literature Today's ninetieth year of continuous publication. Our actual birthday? October 21, 1926. On that day, founding editor Roy Temple House (1878-1963) wrote to University of Oklahoma president William Bennett Bizzell to pitch his idea for a "journal of information as to current foreign books," to be distributed free of charge. Dr. House modestly requested $150 to produce the first two issues, plus another $100 for a special typeface to accommodate foreign book titles. At the time serving as chair of OU's Department of Modern Languages, House had seen firsthand the devastating effects of World War I in Europe and was concerned about the United States' growing isolationism in the 1920s.

The story of Books Abroad-the forerunner of World Literature Today-achieves greater relief when set against the backdrop of the broader advances of the University of Oklahoma at the time. Under the leadership of President Bizzell, OU's fifth president, the university was growing by leaps and bounds, both physically and academically. During Bizzell's tenure, a new main library, the Oklahoma Memorial Union, the liberal arts building known as Buchanan Hall (home to Books Abroad for many years), and the football stadium were built, and the OU Press was founded under the direction of Joseph A. Brandt, all this despite "political opposition from Gov. William H. Murray and increasingly smaller fiscal appropriations" (Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture). David W. Levy has called these "eight years of plenty" (1923-30) "a kind of golden age in the history of the university" (The University of Oklahoma: A History, vol. 2). Brandt served as Books Abroad's managing editor for several years and later returned to OU to become its sixth president upon Bizzell's retirement. (David L. Boren, as OU's thirteenth and current president, would usher in a new golden age beginning in the mid-1990s. …

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