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Time Names Andrew Delbanco 'America's Best Social Critic

By James Devitt

Andrew Delbanco

Time magazine named Andrew Delbanco, Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities, "America's Best Social Critic" in its September 17 issue.

As a teacher, Time's John Cloud wrote, "Delbanco's contribution … comes with every student he inspires. His model would appear to be Emerson, who, 'like every great teacher,' as Delbanco once wrote, 'was in the business of trying to "get the soul out of bed, out of her deep habitual sleep." ' Delbanco is doing his part to jostle her awake too."

Cloud added, "Delbanco reads America and its literature so closely and so well, finding so much meaning in our great books, even for 2001--especially for 2001--that he stands worthy of recognition."

Speaking prior to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Delbanco offered his perspective on human response during times of crisis.

"During times of war and conflict, human beings seem to reach most deeply within themselves," he said, "to discover the most profound truths about themselves, and they are tested in ways that reveal what they are made of."

Delbanco's work encompasses American history, literature and religion. His books include Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997), The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995), The Real American Dream (Harvard, 1999) and The Puritan Ordeal (Harvard, 1989), which won a Lionel Trilling Award. He writes frequently on literary and cultural topics for The New York Review of Books. Delbanco is also a trustee of the PEN American Center, the National Humanities Center and the Library of America.

Delbanco, elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences earlier this year, is currently working on "Melville's World," which explores why author Herman Melville was dismissed in his day but whose work is celebrated now.

Published: Oct 01, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


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