David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File Dr. Aaron, in 2001.
By Mark Feeney Globe Staff May 02, 2016
Daniel Aaron, the founding president of the Library of America and a defining figure in the field of American studies, died Saturday in Mount Auburn Hospital. The cause of death was complications of pneumonia, his daughter-in-law Anna Mundow said. A Cambridge resident, he was 103.
Dr. Aaron, who was Victor S. Thomas professor of English and American literature emeritus at Harvard University, once described himself as “part historian, part literary critic, part political theorist, an irregular in the ranks of the ‘non-Communist Left.’ ” His best-known book, “Writers on the Left: Episodes in American Literary Communism” (1961), brought together all those elements.
“I’ve never been purely concerned with literature,” Dr. Aaron said in a 2001 Globe interview. “My intellectual interests have been adulterated. There’s always been a social dimension to it.”
Andrew Delbanco, the Alexander Hamilton professor of American studies at Columbia University, taught with Dr. Aaron at Harvard in the 1970s. In an e-mail Sunday, Delbanco wrote: “Through a long lifetime of writing and teaching he showed how America could be better if only we lived up to our own ideals. We won’t see the likes of him again.”