Professor Martin Hagglund’s This Life wins prestigious René Wellek Prize

March 25, 2020

Martin Hagglund’s recent book, This Life, has won the René Wellek Prize, the most prestigious award for literary studies. Past winners include Umberto Eco and Edward Said. Here is the prize citation:

“Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom is unclassifiable. A work of great critical ambition that confronts religion and capitalism, freedom and mortality, threats on the planet, and the history of the left, it projects itself as a bold secular sermon and posits a radical morality for our times. Readers cannot remain indifferent: the notion of secular faith here presented will ruffle many feathers across the political spectrum. It is a work of literary criticism, with readings of Dante, Proust, and Knausgaard, and it is a work of philosophy, with readings of Augustine and Kierkegaard inspired by an original interpretation of Heidegger and, at its heart, it is a new thinking of existence in time. It is simultaneously a radical (and practical) case for democratic socialism, arrived at by a powerful juxtaposition of Karl Marx and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is also a work of what is sometimes called wisdom literature, speaking as it does with extraordinary directness and success to the general reader about the ever-timely question of how to live. It is a book against which alternative life projections must be measured. Balancing its bold universalism with a case in favor of modesty and sensitivity to the finitude of all human identities and projects, This Life is absolutely unique.”