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William E. Engel, “Literary Anthologies: A Case Study for Metacognitively ApproachingCanonicity,” Connotations 33 (2024): 18-47

 Anthologies promote and perpetuate what amounts to a canon. The roots run deep in the Western tradition, with the Anthologia Graeca, a collection of Classical and Byzantine Greek literature modelled on Meleager of Gadara (first century BCE), using the term “flower-gathering” (ἀνθολογία) to describe this literary exercise. Mixing his own works with those of forty-six others, Meleager arranged “a garland” that ended up establishing a paradigm for the ages. The trope reached a kind of apogee in Tudor England, buttressed with criteria for critical assessment and instructions for the proper way to enjoy, for example, Isabella Whitney’s A Sweet nosgay, or pleasant posye contayning a hundred and ten phylosophicall flowers. The “anthology,” as such, raises important questions about the curation, preservation, and even the prefigured afterlife of literary works notwithstanding shifts in aesthetic sensibilities and once-novel stylistic inventions. The decisions underlying the culling and arrangement of material for anthologies—most notably those produced and disseminated by corporate titans who impose their imprimatur on a wide range of “anthologies” and thus set standards for a generation at least—warrants closer scrutiny. As editors of two such anthologies (The Memory Arts in Renaissance England and The Death Arts in Renaissance England, both with Cambridge University Press), our team experienced periodic crises of conscience when confronting the reality that our determinations implicitly were setting the canon for a period-specific collection of literary excerpts. We therefore sought intentionally to foreground our deliberations concerning canon formation and to articulate our principles for proceeding, resulting in a metacognitive approach to producing (as duly is reflected in our book's subtitle) “A Critical Anthology.”