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Anthology

Related: compilation - album - collecting

Definition

An anthology is a collection of literary works, originally of poems, but in recent years its usage has broadened to be applied to collections of short stories and comic strips. The term is also applied to television series featuring a variety of different stories. The word derives from the Greek word for garland or bouquet of flowers which was the title of the earliest surviving anthology, assembled by Meleager of Gadara. Meleager's Garland became the seed that grew into the Greek Anthology. The term miscellany is also used, but was more common in the past.

In the East Asian tradition, an anthology was a recognised form of compilation of a given poetic form. It was assumed that there was a cyclic development: any particular form, say the tanka in Japan, would be introduced at one point in history, be explored by masters during a subsequent time, and finally be subject to popularisation (and a certain dilution) when it achieved wide-spread recognition. In this model, which derives from Chinese tradition, the object of compiling an anthology was to preserve the best of a form, and cull the rest.

In the twentieth century anthologies became an important part of poetry publishing, for a number of reasons. For English poetry, the Georgian poetry series was trend-setting; it showed the potential success of publishing an identifiable group of younger poets marked out as a 'generation'. It was followed by numerous collections from the 'stable' of some literary editor, or collated from a given publication, or labelled in some fashion as 'poems of the year'. Academic publishing also followed suit, with the success of the Quiller-Couch Oxford Book of English Verse encouraging other collections not limited to modern poetry. In fact the concept of 'modern verse' was fostered by the appearance of the phrase in titles such as the Faber & Faber anthology by Michael Roberts, and the very different W. B. Yeats Oxford Book of Modern Verse.

Since publishers generally found anthology publication a more flexible medium than the collection of a single poet's work, and indeed rang innumerable changes on the idea as a way of marketing poetry, publication in an anthology (in the right company) became at times a sought-after form of recognition for poets. The self-definition of movements, dating back at least to Ezra Pound's efforts on behalf of Imagism, could be linked on one front to the production of an anthology of the like-minded. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthology [Nov 2004]

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