UC Berkeley News


Letter to the Editor

09 September 2004


I have a minor complaint about the otherwise fine obituary Cathy Cockrell and Marie Felde wrote about my late colleague Czeslaw Milosz for the August 19 Berkeleyan. They wrote, “In 1980, Milosz was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature — the campus’s first and, to date, only Nobel in the humanities.”

This wording seems to imply that, except for Milosz, all the campus’s other humanities professors have been no more than run-of-the-mill, at least never producing from their midst a star of major international renown. But the fact is that the Nobel Prize for literature is given only to creative writers — poets and novelists — whereas perhaps 99 percent of the campus’s humanities professors are scholars, people who study mankind’s artistic heritage in literature, art, and music. No Nobel prizes are awarded for scholarship, and to sneer at our humanities professors for not generating more Nobels is unfair.

Hugh McLean
Professor Emeritus
Slavic Languages and Literature