Monday, March 26, 2012

Few surprises here …

… MLA Rankings of American Writers — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I don't know that popularity with academics tells us much.


  1. "Has the literary scholars’ 25-year worship at the holy shrine of race, class, and gender brought about major changes in the canon? You be the judge."

    Okay. LOL

    I see only one living author on that list, and only five women. (Toni Morrison being on both of those sorts.) There's only two black folks on that list (one of them again being Morrison).

    Is this really a list of the "best or most important writers"? That's so incredibly debatable it's hard to know where to start. Important, to be sure, in many cases. Great, in some cases. And in one or two cases, popular only with academics, and not so much with the general reading public.

    Like you, Frank, I don't think that popularity with academics tells us much. I do think it tells us that it's easier to write about dead writers, and apply whatever literary theory is currently fashionable to them, because they can't talk back. LOL Oh well.

  2. “I see only one living author on that list, and only five women.” And the quota-minded go on counting!

    What is perhaps most interesting is that all of the women on the list moved up in the rankings over the past 25 years. And Toni Morrison is now more important to literary scholars than Hawthorne, Whitman, Dickinson, Emerson, Stevens, Thoreau, Fitzgerald, and Twain.

    LOL, indeed.

  3. Actually, I was glad to see that Willa Cather has moved up, but I fear it has more to do with her being a woman than with her being the great writer that I think she is.

  4. D.G. Myers clarifies the nature of this list in his followup posting "My MLA List":