MLA Rankings of American Authors

At Commentary, a list of American writers ranked by numbers of publications devoted to them, with rankings from 1947 and apparently 1987. The author notes that “The reputations of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Fitzgerald, and Frost have slipped badly. Poor William Dean Howells has fallen out of the top 25 altogether (to be replaced by Richard Wright).”

( 1.) Henry James (3,188 items) [+1]
( 2.) William Faulkner (2,955) [-1]
( 3.) T. S. Eliot (2,659) [+1]
( 4.) Herman Melville (2,579) [-1]
( 5.) Vladimir Nabokov (2,290) [+5]
( 6.) Ernest Hemingway (2,220) [-0-]
( 7.) Edgar Allan Poe (1,958) [-2]
( 8.) Toni Morrison (1,950) [+9]
( 9.) Nathaniel Hawthorne (1,751) [-4]
(10.) Walt Whitman (1,647) [-2]
(11.) Emily Dickinson (1,623) [+2]
(12.) Ezra Pound (1,620) [-3]
(13.) Willa Cather (1,482) [+5]
(14.) Ralph Waldo Emerson (1,326) [-3]
(15.) Wallace Stevens (1,122) [-1]
(16.) Edith Wharton (1,087) [+5]
(17.) Henry David Thoreau (1,076) [-5]
(18.) F. Scott Fitzgerald (1,002) [-3]
(19.) Flannery O’Connor (935) [+3]
(20.) Mark Twain (882) [-4]
(21.) John Steinbeck (823) [+2]
(22.) William Carlos Williams (772) [-0-]
(23.) Saul Bellow (706) [+2]
(24.) Richard Wright (670) [+2]
(25.) Robert Frost (661) [-5]

It’s an interesting relative measure, although it’s a little like ranking movies by opening weekend grosses or like those perpetual “Top 100″ books/movies/songs lists that proliferate around the end of the year.

I’m a little unsure about the methodology: this morning’s MLA count of Edith Wharton references totaled 1557, only 10 of which were before 1947, so maybe dissertations and other pieces weren’t counted. But only five women writers and two writers of color made the list, which is a little surprising.  I wonder what a decade-by-decade count of these 25 authors would look like.

2 thoughts on “MLA Rankings of American Authors

  1. The problem I see here is that the amount of scholarship is equated with reputation, at least according to the blurb from the author quoted at the beginning. Has the reputation of Hawthorne, Emerson, et al., really been affected by the number of papers published on them?

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