The Most-Studied American Writers

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The Most-Studied American Writers

Postby Mikethehack » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:23 pm

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:

Henry James

William Faulkner

T.S. Eliot

Herman Melville

Vladimir Nabokov

Ernest Hemingway

Edgar Allan Poe

Toni Morrison

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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
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Re: The Most-Studied American Writers

Postby Mikethehack » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:25 pm

Here are the top 25 American writers as determined by the amount of scholarship on each. In brackets is the rise or fall of each writer when compared to his or her ranking since 1947.

( 1.) Henry James (3,188 items) [+1]
( 2.) William Faulkner (2,955) [-1]
( 3.) T. S. Eliot (2,659) [+1]
( 4.) Herman Melville (2,579) [-1]
( 5.) Vladimir Nabokov (2,290) [+5]
( 6.) Ernest Hemingway (2,220) [-0-]
( 7.) Edgar Allan Poe (1,958) [-2]
( 8.) Toni Morrison (1,950) [+9]
( 9.) Nathaniel Hawthorne (1,751) [-4]
(10.) Walt Whitman (1,647) [-2]
(11.) Emily Dickinson (1,623) [+2]
(12.) Ezra Pound (1,620) [-3]
(13.) Willa Cather (1,482) [+5]
(14.) Ralph Waldo Emerson (1,326) [-3]
(15.) Wallace Stevens (1,122) [-1]
(16.) Edith Wharton (1,087) [+5]
(17.) Henry David Thoreau (1,076) [-5]
(18.) F. Scott Fitzgerald (1,002) [-3]
(19.) Flannery O’Connor (935) [+3]
(20.) Mark Twain (882) [-4]
(21.) John Steinbeck (823) [+2]
(22.) William Carlos Williams (772) [-0-]
(23.) Saul Bellow (706) [+2]
(24.) Richard Wright (670) [+2]
(25.) Robert Frost (661) [-5]

Disclaimer: These rankings are based entirely on the research of the author, and do not reflect the opinions or policies of the Modern Language Association in any way.
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Re: The Most-Studied American Writers

Postby flipflop » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:54 pm

You can't beat a bit of Jack London, but my stand out guy in this list is Melville.

I thought 'Moby Dick's' was a chip shop in Cullybackey

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Re: The Most-Studied American Writers

Postby Kurt » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:19 pm

I want to like Hawthorn but I cannot.

I would add Dreiser to that list if I could do such a thing. I would also add William Gass but he did not really produce enough to make an American Lit class.
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Re: The Most-Studied American Writers

Postby waylonwally » Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:55 pm

two more names to top the list:
james michener
leon uris
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