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?