The Norton Anthology

The Norton Anthology of English Literature celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year – now in its eighth edition and in paperback.  Do you still have that mammoth hardback book from your college days? in your bookcase? as a doorstop?  Mine traveled across an ocean, before being donated to make room on a small bookshelf.  Founding editor, M.H. Abrams and current editor, Stephen Greenblatt, discuss the relevance of the tome still used in introductory college literature classes in a short article in the New York Times book review section – Built to Last.

When asked why anyone should study literature, Abrams answered:

“Ha – Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life more enjoyable…much more worth living.”

As an English literature major, my collection went on to include many of the authors sprinkled throughout – a taste of writing from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Shakespeare to Joseph Conrad in the twentieth century.  So, of course, I agree with Abrams.  How about you?

10 thoughts on “The Norton Anthology

  1. Diana Staresinic-Deane

    I still have both volumes 1 and 2 and the anthology of literature by women. When I culled my book collection before our move this spring, I couldn’t bare to part with them. Between the internet and those volumes, I can find most of the “big stuff,” something that I found our local library, sadly, did not often have.

      1. Diana Staresinic-Deane

        I have found that even the works of “the masters” can be hard to find outside an academic library. They don’t come off my shelves often – I always have to brush off the dust – but for now, I’m glad I have them. Though one day I’ll probably have it on my nook, right?

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