Professor Phillip Lopate Edits New Anthology 'The Glorious American Essay'
BY Nicole Saldarriaga, November 23, 2020
Professor Phillip Lopate's latest anthology, The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays from Colonial Times to the Present, was released on November 17, 2020 by Pantheon Books.
Released just two weeks after a grueling Election Day, Lopate's anthology is both a celebration and examination of American values and identity, presented through a swath of voices that stretches from Cotton Mathers in the 1700s to Zadie Smith's 2008 essay, "Speaking in Tongues." The result is an anthology that starkly presents "critical, personal, political, philosophical, humorous, literary, polemical, and autobiographical essays," while "making room for sermons, letters, speeches, and columns dealing with a wide variety of subjects."
Publisher's Weekly named The Glorious American Essay one of its Top 10 New Titles in Essays & Literary Criticism for Fall 2020, and said of the collection, "Lopate's look at three centuries of essays emphasizes how writers have wrestled, explicitly or sub-textually, with America's national values." Robert Atwan, series editor of The Best American Essays, also called the anthology "a sumptuous collection...exquisitely curated by one of our finest essayists. An indispensable resource for all of us who love the genre."
Kirkus reviewed the anthology and called it "a thoughtfully edited volume that reflects America's changing social, political, and cultural life," while Columbia University's Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature and author of Shakespeare in a Divided America, James Shapiro, said of the anthology, "As we struggle to come to grips with where America has come from and where it is heading, I can't imagine a better guide than...The Glorious American Essay. His selection of incisive essays...charts the course of the great and flawed American experiment. It's a timely and invaluable anthology."
According to Professor Margo Jefferson, "Once again and right on time, Phillip Lopate offers an indispensable anthology. The Glorious American Essay travels from debate to dreamscape, manifesto to musing, from the struggles of history to the intimacies of the solitary self. Race, gender, science, religion, art, and identity: these quests and conflicts are our legacy as Americans."
Perhaps most notably, Louise Glück—recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature—called Lopate "one of the most brilliant and original essayists now working...He has sustained the lively openness of the student who observes and hypothesizes, refusing, admirably, to harden into the judge...He is a master, and also a joy to read."
Philip Lopate was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943 and received a BA from Columbia in 1964, and a doctorate from the Union Graduate School in 1979. He has written three personal essay collections, two novels and a pair of novellas, three poetry collections, a memoir of his teaching experiences, a collection of his movie criticism, an urbanist medication, a critical study, a biographical monograph, and a collection of essays about his mother. He has edited six anthologies and his work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Essays, several Pushcart Prize annuals, and more. Purchase a copy of The Glorious American Essay here.