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Exploring Complexity: The Warwick Prize for Writing

LogoThe Warwick Prize for Writing

Complexity was the theme of the first ever Warwick prize for Writing, awarded in February 2009 to Canadian Journalist Naomi Klein for her book The Shock Doctrine.

This unique prize aims to identify and promote excellence and innovation in new writing. It is an international, cross-disciplinary award, given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme that changes with every award. Firmly focussed on the writing of the 21st century, the Prize helps to define where writing might be going; what new shapes and forms it might take, and through what media it might be conducted – including electronic forms as well as the traditional medium of print. The Prize is a substantial one, indicating the importance the University places on this new venture.

The Shock Doctrine was chosen from a shortlist of six international titles, whose subjects ranged from music criticism and scientific theory to fiction. Thus, the theme of complexity was interpreted differently by each writer, all experts in their genres – a practice followed by the writers in this Collection of Essays which represents a cross section of the academic departments in the University.

Naomi KleinIn her acceptance speech, Naomi Klein quoted from Oliver Wendell Homes – ‘There is simplicity on the other side of complexity’. She said: “And that is what I think so many of us are striving for, that place on the other side of the creative process where the breathing is a little bit easier; suddenly there is a sense of calm and clarity. That kind of complexity is actually inclusive and empowering, it brings more people into the learning process and that’s what I think we should strive for and celebrate and do better. But there is another kind of complexity... one that seems designed not to illuminate but to obscure, not to include but to exclude – let’s call it false complexity, for lack of a better phrase. It acts as a kind of shield, keeping crucial information, crucial to our democracy, locked in a kind of experts-only club. This is one of the themes of The Shock Doctrine.”

In this Collection of Essays, the writers have followed Naomi Klein’s precepts, striving never to obscure and always to illuminate.