M. H. Abrams Quotes

We are human, and nothing is more interesting to us than humanity.

Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life enjoyable.

We are human, and nothing is more interesting to us than humanity. The appeal of literature is that it is so thoroughly a human thing — by, for and about human beings. If you lose that focus, you obviate the source of the power and permanence of literature.

Key metaphors help determine what and how we perceive and how we think about our perceptions.

I think the hardest thing to teach a student is that what he or she puts down on paper is changeable. It’s not the final thing, it’s the first thing, which may just be the suggestive, vague identification of something that you have to come back to and rewrite.

If you read quickly to get through a poem to what it means, you have missed the body of the poem.

Life without literature is a life reduced to penury.

John Updike is always fun. And one of my former students, Tom Pynchon. And Harold Bloom, another former student.

When I was a graduate student, the leading spirits at Harvard were interested in the history of ideas.

It’s amazing how, age after age, in country after country, and in all languages, Shakespeare emerges as incomparable.

If you learn one thing from having lived through decades of changing views, it is that all predictions are necessarily false.

The theories of the major philosophers of the 18th century secular enlightenment were biblical and theological in spite of themselves.

Hard work makes easy reading or, at least, easier reading.

When something startlingly new comes up, young people, especially, seize it. You can’t complain about that. I think its heyday has passed, but it’s had an effect and will continue to have an effect.

The survival of artistic modes in which we recognize ourselves, identify ourselves and place ourselves will survive as long as humanity survives.

I think most of the things I published have been published out of desperation, not because they were perfected.

We worked on solving the problem of voice communications in a noisy military environment. We established military codes that are highly audible and invented selection tests for personnel who had a superior ability to recognize sound in a noisy background.

At first, students tend to freeze at the first effort. The breakthrough comes when they realize that they can make it better – can identify what their purposes were and realize better ways to achieve those purposes.

If you don’t set your writing – teaching – at a level that makes them stretch, they are never going to develop their intellectual muscle.