Anna Balakian

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Anna Balakian
Born July 14, 1915
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey)
Died August 12, 1997(1997-08-12) (aged 82)
New York City, United States
Nationality Armenian-American
Occupation Literary Critic
Known for Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at New York University

Anna Balakian (14 July 1915 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey) – 12 August 1997 in New York City, United States), former chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at New York University, was internationally recognized as an authority on symbolism and surrealism. She served as President of the American Comparative Literature Association from 1977 to 1980 and was a longtime leader in the International Comparative Literature Association. The author of numerous acclaimed books and articles, she was the recipient of many awards. Of Armenian descent, Anna Balakian was born in Constantinople, Istanbul. At the age of 11 she moved with her family to New Britain, Connecticut. She earned the bachelor's degree at Hunter College, the master's and doctorate degree at Columbia University. While in graduate school, she taught French literature and language full-time at the Hunter College High School. She published her first book, The Literary Origins of Surrealism in 1947. In this groundbreaking study of the founders of modem French poetry, Anna Balakian placed avant-garde writers and artists against the background of French and German romanticism. In 1953 she began her long career at New York University culminating in her eight year chairmanship of the Department of Comparative Literature. Balakian's next book, Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute (1959), is a richly informed exposition of, and apologia for, surrealist literature and art. In The Symbolist Movement: A Critical Appraisal (1969) she gives a concise yet detailed account of symbolist poetry. Her André Breton: Magus of Surrealism (1971) was the first full-scale biography of founder of the surrealist movement.

With her sister, Nona Balakian, a literary critic and an editor at The New York Times Book Review, she was part of a literary circle that included the playwright William Saroyan and the diarist Anaïs Nin. Nona Balakian died in 1991.[1]

In 2004, the International Comparative Literature Association established the Anna Balakian Prize to promote scholarly research by younger comparatists and to honor the memory of her.[2]