Thursday, September 21, 2017

The new Norton Anthology, by the numbers

Years since the last Norton Anthology: 6. This seems awfully short, and I can't help wondering if we really NEED a new edition at all, but on looking up the publication dates for the last three editions, I guess it is their usual interval.

Versions of the Norton Anthology I will have used in my entire teaching career, once the new one comes out: 3. This is making me feel old.

Number of werewolves, compared to the last edition: +1. Yay! Who doesn't love a werewolf?

Number of plays about living with integrity in a world where the king is old, mad, and capricious, his vicious and venal children and children-in-law are running the kingdom, and the world is lashed by violent storms: -1. I will grant that I would never actually teach Lear in a survey course, and its replacement, Othello, is undoubtedly more accessible, but the timing seems unfortunate.

Number of gay Elizabethan poets with a taste for elaborate mythological allusions and silly wordplay: -1. (What the hell, Norton? Am I the only one who likes Barnfield?)

Number of other texts I will miss: No idea. They mark the stuff that's new with stars, but they don't call attention to the texts that have quietly disappeared. However, it looks like this revision is less of a bloodbath than the last one, in which at least FOUR pieces that I used to teach regularly, including a full-length play that is still under copyright and not available online, suddenly vanished.

Number of texts that survived the axe, but I have no idea why: Several, starting with most of the longer works by nineteenth-century poets. Like, does anybody actually teach Manfred or "The Scholar Gypsy"? (Undoubtedly, after the last edition, some Victorianist somewhere wondered whether anyone actually taught Richard Barnfield. Sigh.)

Number of texts I asked for on Norton's faculty survey that actually made it in: Two! "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" and A Christmas Carol. Woo hoo!

Number of new short stories by contemporary writers whose works I have actually read voluntarily: 3. (I don't know any of the stories, but given that I dislike most contemporary "literary fiction" and haven't really taken to ANY of the Norton's prior selections, this is a hopeful sign.)