Roy Temple House's driving idea for the original publication came from his desire to offer non-ideological commentary on a variety of literatures to counter what he saw as America's dangerous trend toward isolationism in the 1920s.
House hoped to promote more extensive and more thoughtful international understanding through the communication of a variety of opinions on art, literature, and ideas.
During the 1981 visit, Butor gave seminars and delivered lectures on such topics as "Literature and Dream" and "The Origin of the Text," of which the first stanza reads: "My window faces west just as it does in Nice / where it's deep night now / the rays of the moon's first quarter / illuminate the sky both here and there." For Books Abroad, House and his editors began their work, a genuine labor of love, for no extra compensation or release time from their duties as university professors.
Even the initial production costs were paid for from their own pockets.
Its mission is to serve as an engaging, informative index to contemporary international literature.
It was founded as Books Abroad in 1927 by Roy Temple House, chair of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Oklahoma.The 1980 Nobel Laureate and 1978 Neustadt Prize winner Czesław Miłosz once declared, "If WLT were not in existence, we would have to invent it.It fulfills the unique role of bringing information about works little known or inaccessible in English-speaking countries." The journal publishes articles, book reviews, and other features, while its offices function as a humanities center for a variety of cultural activities, as the magazine staff organizes conferences and symposia (see Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature and Culture), bestows literary prizes (see Neustadt International Prize for Literature and NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature), and encourages the work of students, scholars, researchers, and readers of world literature everywhere.In 2006 WLT switched from quarterly to bimonthly publication.It is one of the oldest continuously published literary periodicals in the United States, along with such other publications launched in the early twentieth century such as South Atlantic Quarterly (1902), Poetry (magazine) (1912), and The New Yorker (1925).World Literature Today is an American magazine of international literature and culture, published bimonthly at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.The magazine presents essays, poetry, fiction, and book reviews from all over the world in a format accessible to a broad audience.Devoted to the presentation and discussion of current literature in major and lesser-known languages of the world, WLT is the only international magazine focused on comprehensive and informative coverage of developments in contemporary literatures worldwide.WLT frequently represents the sole source available anywhere for information on the less familiar—often unjustly overlooked—literary traditions of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.They will be criticized for their omissions and inclusions, for their lack of a hard and fast plan as to just what types of books shall be treated and what types left to other publications, for the amateurish character of some of their matter, for the opportunism which fully expects to change their policy here and there as circumstances may demand it.They offer their first number with fear and trembling, but with the conviction that they are undertaking a work which very much needed doing.