Academy Article

The 2020 Academy Awards

Emerson-Thoreau medal, awarded by the American Academy for achievement in literature
The Emerson-Thoreau medal, awarded by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for achievement in literature

The March 13 event honoring Margaret Atwood and the March 17 event honoring William Labov have been postponed.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has always celebrated excellence by recognizing accomplishments across disciplines and professions. This year, we will bestow two of our Academy awards on members whose exceptional accomplishments include decades of new ideas and transformative impact.

Emerson-Thoreau Medal

The Emerson-Thoreau Medal, awarded to an individual for total literary achievement, will be presented to author Margaret Atwood in recognition of the fiction, poetry, and non-fiction works that she has written since the 1960s and the impact of her writing on generations of readers around the world.

“Margaret Atwood’s literary achievements are extraordinary, and so is the impact of her work,” said David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. “Her brilliance and imagination pull us into her writing completely and we emerge changed by it and seeing our world differently. She has inspired multiple generations to examine questions of power – especially regarding gender and the environment – and to examine their values and choices.”

To learn more about our honoree, the medal, and the personal connection between Thoreau and Atwood, please read the press release.

Talcott Parsons Prize

The Talcott Parsons Prize, established to honor contributions to the social sciences, will be awarded to William Labov, whose life’s work at the intersection of linguistics and social justice shapes our understanding of language, expression, and culture.

“We are honoring William Labov for a commitment to scholarly exploration and social equity,” said David W. Oxtoby. “His academic distinction and his dedication to promoting understanding exemplify the Academy’s mission to recognize excellence and advance the common good.”

More information about Labov, his influence on a broad array of fields, and the Talcott Parsons Prize is available in our press release.