An Argument for Academic and Educational Attention to Popular Fiction Novels with Multilingual Content, Cultural Diversity, Sociopolitical Depth, and Inspirational Value

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Konrad Gunesch


The two American and Australian bestselling novelists Morris West and Trevanian (the pen name of literary scholar Rodney Whitaker) have created models of sophistication for their protagonists that could be considered as cultural and educational ideals for current and future generations. Against the background of realistically constructed social, political and economic environments, both authors address wider human, cultural and philosophical issues, such as criticisms of cultural imperialism or Western commercialism, East-Western cultural and linguistic differences (such as between the Far East and the West, especially Japan and China, and Europe and the United States), or human ambition and achievement in individual and international balance and in certain historical and sociocultural contexts (such as post-war times, economic crises, or global cultural confrontations). Both authors excitingly match their highly educated, socially reputable and usually multilingual protagonists with antagonists who, while possessing more economic influence or political power, are endowed with less educational, idealistic and humanistic attributes and considerations. Both Morris West and Trevanian portray their characters and life worlds within stories that are involving to read due to their contemporary relevance, cultural depths and insights, as well as due to their sophisticated prose and style. Yet most importantly, their protagonists’ activities and ambitions are inspiring to incorporate into our (or our students’) own professional and educational aspirations, or personal cultural pursuits. This research exemplifies the literary skill, storyline involvement, cultural intrigue, humanistic value trans­mission, and inspirational power of both authors with excerpts from two of their most popular and globally bestselling novels, namely Trevanian’s Shibumi (1970) and West’s The Ringmaster (1991). The overall aim is to recommend these works to students and teachers of language and culture (for literature and cultural studies, classrooms and syllabi, but also beyond), and to bring their critically acclaimed content firmly into the educational and scholarly fold.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Individual Sessions: Words and Images Crossing Literary and Critical Borders