Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Daniel Aaron  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1912 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: 2016 in Cambridge, MA


-- Daniel Aaron on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=daniel+aaron


Illinois Connection

Aaron was born in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Daniel Aaron was an American writer and academic. He earned a BA from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from Harvard University. He was a professor at Harvard, Amherst, Yale and Barnard among other institutions. In 1979, he helped found the Library of America where he served as president to 1985 and board member and remained an emeritus board member. Aaron was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973 and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. In 2010, he was a National Humanities Medalist.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Men of Good Hope: a Story of American Progressives
ISBN: 0195006933

Oxford University Press. 1961

The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War
ISBN: 0299113906

Univ of Wisconsin Pr. 1987

In The Unwritten War, Daniel Aaron examines the literary output of American writers—major and minor—who treated the Civil War in their works. He seeks to understand why this devastating and defining military conflict has failed to produce more literature of a notably high and lasting order, why there is still no "masterpiece" of Civil War fiction.

In his portraits and analyses of 19th- and some 20th-century writers, Aaron distinguishes between those who dealt with the war only marginally—Henry Adams, Henry James, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain-and those few who sounded the war's tragic import—Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner. He explores the extent to which the war changed the direction of American literature and how deeply it entered the consciousness of American writers. Aaron also considers how writers, especially those from the South, discerned the war's moral and historical implications.

The Unwritten War was originally published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1973. The New Republic declared, [This book's] major contribution will no doubt be to American literary history. In this respect it resembles Edmund Wilson's Patriotic Gore and is certain to become an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to explore the letters, diaries, journals, essays, novels, short stories, poems-but apparently no plays-which constitute Civil War literature. The mass of material is presented in a systematic, luminous, and useful way.



CINCINNATI: QUEEN CITY OF THE WEST, 1819-1838 (URBAN LIFE & URBAN LANDSCAPE)
ISBN: 0814205704

Ohio State University Press. 1992

Daniel Aaron, one of todays foremost scholars of American history and American studies, began his career in 1942 with this classic study of Cincinnati in frontier days. Aaron argues that the Queen City quickly became an important urban center that in many ways resembled eastern cities more than its own hinterlands, with a populace united by its desire for economic growth.
Aaron traces Cincinnati's development as a mercantile and industrial center during a period of intense national political and social ferment. The city owed much of its success as an urban center to its strategic location on the Ohio River and easy access to fertile backcountry. Despite an early over-reliance on commerce and land speculation and neglect of manufacturing, by 1838 Cincinnati's basic industries had been established and the city had outstripped her Ohio River rivals. Aaron's account of Cincinnati during this tumultuous period details the ways in which Cincinnatians made the most of commerce and manufacturing, how they met their civic responsibilities, and how they survived floods, fires, and cholera. He goes on to discuss the social and cultural history of the city during this period, including the development of social hierarchies, the operations of the press, the rage for founding societies of all kinds, the response of citizens to national and international events, the commercial elite's management of radicals and nonconformists, the nature of popular entertainment and serious culture, the efforts of education, and the messages of religious institutions.
For historians, particularly those interested in urban and social history, Daniel Aaron's view of Cincinnati offers a rare opportuniry to view antebellum American society in a microcosm, along with all of the institutions and attitudes that were prevalent in urban America during this important time.

The Americanist
ISBN: 0472115774

University of Michigan Press. 2007

“ I have read all of Daniel Aaron’ s books, and admired them, but in The Americanist I believe he has composed an intellectual and social memoir for which he will be remembered. His self-portrait is marked by personal tact and admirable restraint: he is and is not its subject. The Americanist is a vision of otherness: literary and academic friends and acquaintances, here and abroad. Eloquently phrased and free of nostalgia, it catches a lost world that yet engendered much of our own.”

— Harold Bloom



The Americanist is the absorbing intellectual autobiography of Daniel Aaron, who is the leading proponent and practitioner of American Studies. Written with grace and wit, it skillfully blends Daniel Aaron’ s personal story with the history of the field he has done so much to create. This is a first-rate book by a first-rate scholar.”

— David Herbert Donald, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University





The Americanist is author and critic Daniel Aaron’ s anthem to nearly a century of public and private life in America and abroad. Aaron, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of American Studies, graduated from the University of Michigan, received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and taught for over three decades each at Smith College and Harvard.



Aaron writes with unsentimental nostalgia about his childhood in Los Angeles and Chicago and his later academic career, which took him around the globe, often in the role of America’ s accidental yet impartial critic. When Walt Whitman, whom Aaron frequently cites as a touchstone, wrote, “ I am large, I contain multitudes,” he could have been describing Daniel Aaron— the consummate erudite and Renaissance individual whose allegiance to the truth always outweighs mere partisan loyalty.



Not only should Aaron’ s book stand as a resplendent and summative work from one of the finest thinkers of the last hundred years, it also succeeds on its own as a first-rate piece of literature, on a par with the writings of any of its subjects. The Americanist is a veritable Who’ s Who of twentieth-century writers Aaron interviewed, interacted with, or otherwise encountered throughout his life: Ralph Ellison, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Richard Hofstadter, Alfred Kazin, Sinclair Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Crowe Ransom, Upton Sinclair, Edmund Wilson, Leonard Woolf, and W. B. Yeats, to name only a few.



Aaron’ s frank and personal observations of these literary lights make for lively reading. As well, scattered throughout The Americanist are illuminating portraits of American presidents living and passed— miniature masterworks of astute political observation that offer dazzlingly fresh approaches to well-trod subjects.

Commonplace Book, 1934-2012
ISBN: 1940396123

Pressed Wafer. 2015

Literary Nonfiction. This book consists of quotations (books, articles, reviews, letters), recollections (persons, places, events), words (archai, obsolescent, technical), including story plots, fancies, sententiae, verse and nonsense.