At 102 years old, literary scholar M.H. Abrams was awarded the National Humanities Medal on Monday at the White House by President Obama. Abrams is an emeritus professor at Cornell; in the 1950s, his students included Harold Bloom and Thomas Pynchon.
Abrams created the Norton Anthology of English Literature, a staple of college English classes that helped form the canon of English literary works in America and around the world. First published in 1962, the Norton Anthology was designed to be portable — although anyone who lugged one of its 1,000-plus page volumes around knows, “portable” doesn’t mean “easy to carry.”
"We tried to represent the greatest of English literary works in two volumes. And over the years, the bigger it’s gotten, the better it’s sold,” Abrams said in 1999.
Abrams was a scholar of Romantic poetry who grew up speaking Yiddish in New Jersey. He put aside his poetry studies during World War II, when he worked in a secret language lab at Harvard. After the war, he studied at Cambridge University in England and returned to Harvard for his PhD.
He began teaching at Cornell, where he remained for almost 70 years.
Abrams, who traveled to Washington, published works of literary criticism that included “The Mirror and Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition” (1953) and “Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature” (1973). His most recent book is “The Fourth Dimension of a Poem and Other Essays,” published when he was 100.
The other recipients of the 2013 National Medals of the Humanities were historians David Brion Davis, Darlene Clark Hine, and Anne Firor Scott; East Asian studies scholar William Theodore De Bary; radio hosts Diane Rehm and Krista Tippett; filmmaker Stanley Nelson; architect Johnpaul Jones; and the American Antiquarian Society.
“I was a new writer and I was supposed to write all the time, wasn’t I? I had not yet discovered that there are times when one can’t write, one shouldn’t write, times for thought, for deepening, or just reading, or simply living.”—Stanley Crawford in a letter to Noy Holland (The Believer, Feburary 2010)
We know Kamala Khan is popular, but what does a sixth printing really mean?
Kamala Khan has enraptured the world as many times as she’s saved it. Now, the plucky Pakistani-American teen who made history as the new Ms Marvel, comics’ first ever lead Muslim superhero, is getting a rare sixth printing—and heralding a new era of diversity in comics.
Although the world of comics occupies an increasingly large part of the pop cultural domain—last year the industry did about $800 million in sales—the number of people who actually buy comics is relatively small. Most comics only average about 3,000 copies per printing; with Kamala now on her sixth printing, she’s headed towards a whopping 20,000 print copies sold.
Still, to put things in perspective, sixth printings are major milestones in the world of comics. Spider-Man Issue #583, the one with President Obama on the cover, only made it to a fifth printing despite making international headlines. Kamala now joins an elite lineup of bestselling comics that have performed beyond all expectations.