The LOA’s books with their familiar glossy black dust jackets, have sold over 9.5 million copies.At first, Abrams and Aaron worked primarily to codify existing canons, but they soon responded to the times and began opening the canons of English and American literature.
He advanced his position most explicitly in his headnote for the year 2003.
For that final year of the collection, he selected an odd, beautiful, and fascinating essay by Jenny Boully, titled “The Body.” Boully’s piece is written as footnotes to an absent text.
She would try an anthology of his contemporary American selections and see how it sold. Beginning with the New Journalism of the ’60s, writers like Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Jamaica Kincaid, Barry Lopez, John Mc Phee, and Susan Sontag (all of whom appeared in series was in its 17th year, and creative nonfiction was finally beginning to work its way into MFA writing programs.
Most essay anthologies, however, were still geared toward First-Year Writing courses.
On most pages the missing body of the essay is represented by white space, though on one page there is nothing but footnotes.
There are footnotes to footnotes, footnotes about footnotes, and in some footnotes there are hints about the end of an affair, discussions of and the death of the author, and quotations from several texts, including the Bible.Sometimes they offered a short, suggestive reading of the essay at hand.Rarely did one headnote do all three, but all together they constituted a running disquisition by D’Agata about the lyricism of the next American essay — but always lyricism as he defines it.Generations of college students read English literature seriously for the first time in their Norton anthology; after graduation, many held onto their copies (two fat volumes), the thin pages now full of underlines and margin notes — 10 million copies are in print.Aaron founded the Library of America in 1979, providing our culture with authoritative editions of American classics from Melville and Hawthorne to Updike, Roth, and O’Connor.Students who occupied buildings to protest the Vietnam War often called for African-American and Women’s Studies programs at their universities as well.They were frequently successful and the changes in curricula that followed required a new, more diverse set of classroom texts. Mencken’s columns, Aldo Leopold’s nature writing, and James Agee’s film criticism.was not just different; it was also groundbreaking and even, as D’Agata himself suggested, cocky.The anthology contained essays by 30 essayists, some of them new, some of them well known.He may not be a titan or a radical, but he is certainly talented, precocious, provocative, and influential. Like Abrams, Aaron, and the radicals of 1968, D’Agata wants to expand the canon — in his case, the essay canon — but he wants to do so by redefining what an essay is.He introduces us to new voices but not because those writers represent a previously underrepresented group in terms of race, sexuality, ethnicity, or class, but because D’Agata sees them as doing something different in terms of form, something that allows him to nudge the genre toward his conception of what it should be.