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National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals announced

February 10, 2012 |  3:37 pm

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The White House announced the recipients of the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medals today. Poet Rita Dove (above) is the leading literary figure among the seven who will receive the National Medal of Arts, joining actor Al Pacino, singer Mel Tillis, painter Will Barnet, sculptor Martin Puryear, pianist André Watts, and creative arts patron Emily Rauh Pulitzer.

Rita Dove served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to '95. Dove, born in 1952 in Ohio, received an MFA from the University of Iowa and published her first poetry collection in 1980. She won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for the collection "Thomas and Beulah." She teaches at the University of Virginia; her many accolades include a National Humanities Medal.

National Humanities Medals will be awarded to eight writers, including another poet, John Ashbery (pictured at the 2011 National Book Awards, where he was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters). The other winners are Kwame Anthony Appiah, critic Andrew Delbanco, historian Robert Darnton, musical scholar Charles Rosen, historian Teofilo Ruiz, literary scholar Ramón Saldívar, and Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate in economics. After the jump, brief descriptions of their work.

President Obama will present the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medals at a White House to the above individuals, as well as arts organizations, at a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 13, streaming live at 1:45pm eastern.

From the White House press release:

Kwame Anthony Appiah, philosopher, for seeking eternal truths in the contemporary world. His books and essays within and beyond his academic discipline have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities. 

John Ashbery, poet, for his contributions to American letters. Since his first book was published in 1956, he has been awarded nearly every prize available for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize and the Grand Prix de Biennales Internationales de Poésie. One of the New York School poets, he has changed how we read poetry and has influenced generations of poets.

Robert Darnton, historian and librarian, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone. As an author he has illuminated the world of Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, and as a librarian he has endeavored to make his vision for a comprehensive national library of digitized books a reality. 

Andrew Delbanco, literary scholar, for his insight into the American character, past and present. He has been called “America’s best social critic” for his essays on current issues and higher education. As a professor in American studies, he reveals how classics by Melville and Emerson have shaped our history and contemporary life. 

Charles Rosen, musician and scholar, for his rare ability to join artistry to the history of culture and ideas. His writings — about Classical composers and Romantic tradition — highlight how music evolves and remains a vibrant, living art. 

Teofilo Ruiz, medieval historian, for his inspired teaching and writing. His erudite studies have deepened our understanding of medieval Spain and Europe, while his late examination of how society has coped with terror has taught important lessons about the dark side of western progress. 

Ramón Saldívar, literary scholar, for his bold explorations of identity along the border separating the United States and Mexico. Through his studies of Chicano literature and the development of the novel in Europe and America, he beckons us to notice the cultural and literary markings that unite and divide us.

Amartya Sen, economist and Nobel laureate, for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice. By applying philosophical thinking to questions of policy, he has changed how standards of living are measured and increased our understanding of how to fight hunger.

RELATED:

2011: Harper Lee to receive National Medal of the Arts

$100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award goes to Timothy Donnelly

2011 National Book Awards [video]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, Rita Dove in 1994. Credit: Bill McClain / Associated Press. Right, John Ashbery at the National Book Awards in 2011. Credit: Tina Fineberg / Associated Press 

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