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The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by M.H. Abrams (1962)

The people of the book’s other Bible

by
Adam Kirsch
September 17, 2013

Jews came very late to English literature. Until the early 20th century, just about the only Jews you could find in the classic writers were monsters like Shylock and the Jew of Malta. That changed when a generation of American Jewish writers and scholars decided that English was their literature, too. Perhaps the best symbol of this change is the Norton Anthology, edited by M.H. Abrams, a first-generation American who became the world’s leading scholar of Romanticism. Though Jews rarely appear in its pages, as contributors or subjects, the Norton Anthology—the companion of every English major for the last half-century—could not have existed without the triumphant assimilation of Jews into English literature.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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