Page last updated at 08:20 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 09:20 UK

Meryl Streep elected to elite arts academy

Meryl Streep
Streep is the first member elected solely for her acting

Meryl Streep has been elected as an honorary member of the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The 112-year-old club traditionally honoured "Americans of great distinction" solely in music composition, literature and art.

She was elected in a special category, set up in 1983, honouring work falling "outside traditional departments".

Streep, 60, said she was "stunned" and "couldn't believe that I'd be even allowed in the kitchen".

"When they sent me the roster of people in the academy, I just burst into tears," she added.

'Extraordinary examples'

US conductor James Levine has also been elected in the same category, the academy announced.

"Both of this year's inductees are performing artists and both are at the peak of their careers," poet and academy president JD McClatchy said.

"James Levine's conducting and Meryl Streep's acting are extraordinary examples of insight, depth and virtuosity."

Woody Allen, who directed Streep in 1979 film Manhattan, and filmmaker Martin Scorsese are past inductees in the special category.

Streep is the first member to be elected solely for her acting achievements.

Openings in the 250-strong academy are created when members die.

Other inductees announced this week include author Thomas McGuane, architect Thom Mayne and pop artist Peter Saul.

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