... his extraordinary body of writing and its profound impact on humanities scholarship.
The honor, awarded by the Norwegian government in the fields of arts and humanities, social sciences, law, and theology, recognizes Greenblatt as “one of the most distinctive and influential voices in the humanities for four decades,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, chair of the Holberg Academic Committee.
“The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” describes how an ancient Roman philosophical epic helped to pave the way for modern thought.....Greenblatt said. “My book is about the magic of the written word and about the strangeness of a poem that was written 2,000 years ago, a great and difficult poem that disappeared for 1,000 years and then came back.”
Greenblatt’s book tells the story of a Roman epic poem, “On the Nature of Things,” by Lucretius, that 2,000 years ago posited a number of revolutionary ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.
The Holberg Prize included his other books, like Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. In this volume we learn about James l of Scotland, and how testimony he gathered included an account by people, who called themselves witches, and said "they had christened a cat, tied body parts from a dead man to its limbs, and then thrown it into the sea." The intent was to raise "such a tempest in the sea" it would sink a ship containing the king.
I doubt Greenblatt noticed the witches were a modern, not medieval, phenomenon.