By Christopher Shea
At Commentary, D.G. Myers has an interesting, if somewhat tendentious, post, about the American writers who have inspired the most academic work, according to the MLA International Bibliography. (The MLA refers to the Modern Languages Association, an umbrella organization for scholars of literature.)
One bit of news is that, over the last 25 years, Henry James has supplanted William Faulkner as the most-studied author. “T. S. Eliot and Herman Melville have also swapped places,” Myers writes.
After that, things get interesting. Vladimir Nabokov has become of the five most talked-about American writers, and Toni Morrison (whose “Beloved” will be 25 years old in September) has jumped from far back into the top ten. The reputations of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Fitzgerald, and Frost have slipped badly. Poor William Dean Howells has fallen out of the top 25 altogether (to be replaced by Richard Wright).
The reputations he refers to have not “slipped” as “badly” as you might guess: Hawthorne remains the ninth most written-about American author, Emerson the fourteenth.
Sometimes, Myers accurately describes the list as referring to the “most-talked about” writers, which seems roughly accurate; other times, as the “best or most important,” which is not quite right. One might prefer Twain to Eliot, for example — and even think he is a more important figure in history and letters —while conceding that Eliot might provide more grist for scholarship. “Has the literary scholars’ 25-year worship at the holy shrine of race, class, and gender brought about major changes in the canon?” he asks. “You be the judge.”
In fact, with the exception of the somewhat polarizing Toni Morrison, I suspect the list will disappoint right-leaning culture warriors itching for a fight. The top 10 writers are as follows:
Edgar Allan Poe
While the full list runs to 25 names — do read the whole post — it doesn’t get markedly more controversial than that. So have race-and-gender-obsessed scholars turned their backs on the American greats? One could make that case, I suppose, but not by way of this list.http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/ ... _news_blog
I'm not really a proper reporter, due to the chronic lack of discipline, negligible attention span, and a certain juvenile difficulty taking serious things seriously.