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Fellows Receive 2011 National Humanities Medal and National Medal of Arts


Press Release

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand America’s access to important humanities resources. The National Medal of Arts is awarded in recognition of “outstanding achievement and support of the arts,” and is managed by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Among the recipients of the 2011 National Humanities Medal were six Academy Fellows:

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.”

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.”

Among the recipients of the 2011 National Medal of Arts were two Academy Fellows:

Rita Dove, poet and author, for creating works “that are equal parts beauty, lyricism, critique, and politics. Dove has worked to create popular interest in the literary arts, serving as the United States’ youngest Poet Laureate and advocating on behalf of the diversity and vitality of American poetry and literature.”

Martin Puryear, sculptor, for transforming “mundane and utilitarian materials – wood, stone, and metal – into evocative talismans that quietly and powerfully explore issues of history, culture, and identity. His unwavering commitment to manual skill and traditional building methods offer a seductive alternative to our increasingly digital world.”


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