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The anthology as a genre


The anthology as a genre

Literary anthologies are a widely used and admittedly influential genre in the creation, dissemination and transformation of literary repertoires, histories and poetics. For this reason, the study of literary anthologies can yield important contributions to the recent debate on literary history and to the attempts to rethink literature and history within broader frameworks.


More precisely, what makes literary anthologies of particular relevance for the study of literary history is their mediating role between author‐ and text‐oriented approaches on the one hand and larger historical and literary categories on the other. Due to their highly hybrid character, anthologies are both essential and superficial,comprehensive and fragmentary, and can act as a mediator between author- and text oriented approaches on the one hand and larger historical and literary categories on the other. Historicized, the anthology becomes a monument, and sometimes a window, opening unto contemporary voices and drawing new lines for future poetics.


Anthologies construct literary repertoires by combining the singularities and idiosyncrasies of particular text fragments and the general perspectives of categories such as currents, discourses or genres, by striking a balance between reading strategies of specific corpuses and interpretation of broader historical phenomena. Therefore, anthologies are one of the most interesting objects for the study of notions such as periodization, selection and canon formation, the relations between textual hermeneutics and history, the relationship between literature and other fields of knowledge, and so forth.


Anthologies are too often neglected in the current debate on literary history, despite the fact that the genre brings to the forefront a number of cruces at the heart of literary history: the attempt to compartmentalize reality, nullifies the complexity of the facts, but on the other hand the concentration on individual cases, events or short time spans may as well cause blind spots and lead to aporia.

"Enfin, la littérature est faite aussi de certaines pratiques, c’est-à-dire de certaines manifestations ou expériences, individuelles et collectives, nées de ces objets et de ces discours. Ces activités revêtent souvent une dimension rituelle : lectures publiques, séances de dédicace, interviews et entretiens, funérailles nationales et publications d’anthologies. Ces activités ne reflètent pas seulement l’ancrage temporel et historique, mais aussi géographique et culturel de la littérature : elles le constituent, et en ce sens, il importe de les inclure dans toute étude de la dynamique littéraire." 


(see MDRN 2013, "manifesto", par. 4.3.)


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