Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Howard, Jennifer. "The Literary Anthology, Revised and Excised." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION December 21, 2007.

The first edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature appeared in 1962. Since then, the mighty tome has gone through eight editions and introduced generations of undergraduates to the joys (or sorrows) of Chaucer, Milton, and Keats. For many, the memory of staples like "Ode on a Grecian Urn" cannot be separated from the physical fact of the Norton, its hundreds of tissue-thin pages adding up to serious canonical heft. Forty-five years later, the Norton remains the 800-pound gorilla in the classroom. But it faces vigorous and growing competition from other anthologies, notably the Longman Anthology of British Literature and the Broadview Anthology of British Literature. And, like its younger rivals, it has to figure out how to stay relevant — and marketable — in what's been called the postcanonical age, when the old literary lions fight for space with hordes of once-neglected writers. Today's anthologies must appeal to instructors faced with increasingly tough decisions — about what students in survey courses should read, how much they're willing or able to read, and what background they need to understand it in the first place. Behind all of that looms a bigger, theoretical concern. The study of world literatures in English is on the rise. How close is the day when anthologies centered on the literary output of the British Isles will have outlived their usefulness? . . .

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