ABRAMS, MEYER H.

ABRAMS, MEYER H. (1912– ), U.S. literary critic and scholar. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, Abrams was educated at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees and, in 1940, his doctorate. He also studied at Cambridge University in 1934 and 1935 with I.A. Richards, author of Coleridge on Imagination (1934). Regarded as one of the most influential critics of Romantic literature, Abrams first established his reputation with his 1953 work The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. Here Abrams defines Romanticism in terms of its "expressive orientation." He characterizes 18th-century literature as a mirror, or "reflector," which seeks to faithfully reflect the exterior world; 19th-century literature, on the other hand, is a lamp, or "projector," which seeks to illuminate and express the inner life of the artist. With this metaphor, Abrams is considered to have created a significant definition of English Romanticism, one that profoundly affected subsequent studies. In his later work, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (1971), Abrams links English and German Romanticism to a Judeo-Christian conception of man's fall, redemption, and return to paradise, and he uses Wordsworth's "The Recluse" as the exemplar of his theory. Critical reception to Natural Supernaturalism was mixed, with Deconstructionists and New Historicists challenging its authority. Abrams's 1989 work, Doing Things with Texts: Essays in Criticism and Critical Theory, which includes previously published essays, addresses these critiques and further elaborates his literary theory. During his long career at Cornell University, beginning in 1938, Meyer Abrams established a reputation as an esteemed Jewish scholar in a field previously dominated by non-Jewish academics. Professor emeritus at Cornell from 1983, Abrams is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Ford Foundation fellowship in 1953, Guggenheim fellowships in 1958 and 1960, the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association of America in 1972 for Natural Supernaturalism, and the Award for Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1990. He served as general editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature (1962 and subsequent editions; founding editor emeritus of the 2005 edition) and was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. (Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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