Dumbing Down Essays On The Strip Mining Of American Culture

Katharine Washburn, an essayist, editor, anthologist and translator whose legacy includes a cornucopia of verse from the dawn of civilization to the present, died Wednesday at her home in Brooklyn. She was 57.

The apparent cause was a heart attack, her family said.

Ms. Washburn was editor, with John S. Major, of ''World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse From Antiquity to Our Time'' (W. W. Norton, 1998), an updated and expanded version of Mark Van Doren's 1928 ''Anthology of World Poetry.''

At 1,338 pages, including the index, the volume contains 1,600 poems ranging over more than 4,000 years, from ancient Sumer and Egypt to the late 20th century. The editors organized it in eight chronological parts from the Bronze Age forward, with each section subdivided by language.

Most of the poems were translated into English for the anthology by other poets. Its English-language verse sampled the best from Chaucer to the present.

Ms. Washburn herself translated poetry from classical and modern European languages. Among her earlier work was a 1986 translation from the German of poems by Paul Celan (North Point, 1986). At her death, she was working on a novel, ''The Translator's Apology.''

She was co-editor of ''Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture'' (Norton, 1996). It presented the worried views of observers from many vantage points of the present state of American life, art and thought.

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  • dumb down — transitive verb Date: 1933 to lower the level of difficulty and the intellectual content of (as a textbook); also to lower the general level of intelligence in < the dumbing down of society > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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