Archive for September 24th, 2014

New feather in Marjorie Perloff’s cap, and a few words about making literature “useful.”

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
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Marjorie Perloff

Undiminished

A new feather for Stanford’s Marjorie Perloff: the influential critic is the 2014 recipient of Washington University’s International Humanities Medal.  The award honors humanistic endeavors in scholarship, journalism, literature, or the arts that have made a difference in the world. Past winners include Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk in 2006; journalist Michael Pollan in 2008; novelist and nonfiction writer Francine Prose in 2010, and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in 2012. You can read more about Perloff on the Stanford website here.

She will receive the medal during a ceremony on October 22 at Washington University in St. Louis. The news is on the website of the University of Southern California, where Perloff is Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences – here.

Perloff is the author of 16 books and hundreds of articles, and “will be honored for her outstanding body of work, and for her impact on both the discipline of literary criticism and the landscape of contemporary poetry,” according to the website.

FeatherBut the occasion gave Perloff an opportunity to say some welcome words about the humanities, and literature in particular: “One of the difficulties facing the humanities is the tendency to justify everything now by saying it must be ‘useful,’

 ” she said.

“I don’t think studying literature needs any justification,” she said. “It’s simply one of the great arenas of human endeavor and has been from ancient times to the present. The study of literature literally transforms your life, opening up to you other worlds outside your own narrow one. It enhances your sense of the richness of life and its fascinating complexity: Indeed, it is life, in another form. To have no familiarity with the great literary texts is to lead a diminished life.”

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Hugo

Author, author! No, not me–him.

In other news, the modest fame of the Book Haven continues to spread – this time to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which gave us a shout-out in an article about upcoming production of Les Misérables at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater. In a recitation of the events of the 1832 failed uprising, it quoted from “Stanford University’s Cynthia Haven in her fun, informative blog post ‘Enjoy ‘Les Misérables.’ But please get the history straight.’” It sounds like a great production, if you’re in the area. Read the whole article here.

Humble Moi seems to have become some sort of citable expert on Les Misérables and Victor Hugo, what with our recent Stanford talk on the subject here, and other posts here and here and and here, and the original post here, which currently has 99 comments, a Book Haven record. That means you have the opportunity to make the 100th comment, if you act quickly. We’ll give you a shout-out, too.

Sufficiency

Postscript on 9/25: Congratulations, Linda McCoy! You made the 100th post on ‘Enjoy ‘Les Misérables.’ But please get the history straight.’” You had only a few minutes to enjoy the honor before I found an earlier comment from you in the spam folder. So you have the 98th and 101st comments now, technically speaking – but we’re calling it for you. You won by a hair! So here’s a little champers to celebrate. My favorite. Veuve Clicquot. Enjoy.