For students and scholars of English and literature-lovers alike, it will come as an endearing sentiment to know that The Norton Anthology of English Literature turns fifty this fall. Usually purchased as the required text for virtually any undergraduate survey of English lit., this chunky book that might be considered a pain to carry around campus often ends up with a permanent home on our bookshelves. Norton’s founding editor, M. H. Abrams, and the current editor, Stephen Greenblatt, recently told The New York Times why this anthology is treasured long after college and why the study of literature is important, despite the irrelevance subjects in the humanities are assumed to have in today’s job market:
“The Norton Anthology was based on the idea that it actually matters to plunge into a comic masterpiece written in the 1300s or to weep at a tragedy performed in the 1700s. What would it mean for a culture to give up on its past? It is vitally important to remind people that the humanities carry the experience, the life-forms of those who came before us, into the present and into the future. Through reading literature we can make ghosts speak to us, and we can speak back to them. Besides — as many studies have shown — cultural knowledge turns out to be good for your career.”
—Stephen Greenblatt, current editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature
Aw. I have the edition with the yellow and burgundy spine on my bookshelf still. Fond memories.