A Survey of Norton Anthology Editions by Gender: Mahria Hinzman, 4/16/08

Author's Note:--Arnie:  I found the Norton demonstration on Tuesday extremely interesting; so, during a quiet spell at work, I investigated our (Harford Community College Library) collection for previous editions of the Norton Anthology of British Literature. Watching its evolution from 1968-2005 was fascinating... a fast-forward history lesson that confirmed the need for and the impact of feminist criticism:


The Norton Anthology of British Literature:

1968: Revised, Volume 1

65 Authors: 65 men, 0 women = 100% male


1974: Third Edition, Volume 1

84 Authors: 83 men, 1 woman (Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea) = 99% male


1979: Fourth Edition, Volume 1

72 Authors: 70 men, 2 women  (Anne Finch and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu) = 97% male


2000: Seventh Edition, Volume 1

107 Authors: 86 men, 21 women = 80% male


2006: Eighth Edition, Volume 1

112 Authors: 86 men, 26 women = 77% male


2006: Eighth Edition, "The Major Authors [of Vol. I and II]"

[representing Vol. I] 42 Authors: 29 men, 13 women = 69% male


 Also (considering Baym's discussion of the New Critics),


The Major Poets: English and American (1954), edited by Charles M. Coffin

(dedicated "to the men of Kenyon College who have read poetry with me for many years")

34 Authors: 33 men, 1 woman (Emily Dickinson) = 97% male


The Best Poems of the English Language (2004), edited/selected by Harold Bloom:

(chosen according to "[Bloom's] three absolute criteria: aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, and wisdom")

102 Authors: 86 men, 16 women = 84% male


It seems odd that the first two women to be admitted into the Norton held prominent social titles (Countess and Lady)-- titles that also clearly denoted their sex; and the only woman allowed in Coffin's collection lived in virtual exile, devoting herself entirely to her art.


I find the "Matrix" analogy particularly apt... Whereas pre-Critical Methods, I viewed the world through the visible spectrum, each week opens a new spectrum through which to view the world. And, just as if I now can see in different, previously-invisible wavelengths, the same world appears radically different. I find myself decoding my favourite texts, and their "meaning" varies from week to week... So, it might be that the only reality is in one's mind-- and the concept of "reality" is subjective and individual, formed according to the wavelength the individual is currently using-- and even that reality is subject to change. There is no spoon. There is no spoon.

 See you tomorrow.