Advances in Literary Study
2014. Vol.2, No.1, 38-45
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
Gender in the American Anthology Apparatus:
A Linguistic Analysis
Laura Aull
English Department, Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, USA
Received November 23rd, 2013; revised December 26th, 2013; accepted January 13th, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Laura Aull. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provi ded the original
work is properly cited. In ac cordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2014 are
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law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Most American anthology and canon revision has focused on author and text selections but little on the
anthology editorial apparatus. The following study responds to this gap by analyzing gender representa-
tion across prefaces and overviews of the Norton and Heath American anthologies (1979-2010). Through
a combined rhetorical and corpus linguistic analysis, the study reveals disparate gender representation in
these materials: women are increasingly mentioned over time, but men continue to emerge as individuals
of importance while women are discussed primarily as a group. This examination suggests that the revi-
sionist, feminist scrutiny of Norton and Heath inventory has not been brought to bear on the anthologies’
apparatus—and that discursive patterns therein remain largely invisible despite that they contradict efforts
to revise gender bias in anthologies. In so doing, the study offers an exploratory analysis of new methods
(combined linguistic and rhetorical analysis) and new sites (apparatus texts) for examining gender in ca-
nonical and pedagogical materials.
Keywords: Gender; American Anthologies; American Canon; Linguistic Analysis
That womens contributions which should be acknowledged
in American anthologies is by now established. Survey an-
thologies have been extensively revised, and the American
anthology itself—as artifact and architect of inclusions, exclu-
sions, and values—is more problematized than ever. It is a ca-
nonical, national story for the field’s widest audience (Graff,
1987; Shumway, 1994b), a place for challenging and rethinking
the values and structures that have excluded marginalized
voices (Rosenfeld, Hames-Garcia), a political and educational
tool” (Lockard & Sandell, 2008: pp. 246-249), and is ever con-
tingent and contextualized by editors and institutional contexts
(Guillory, 1993, p. 29). It is at the same time very widely used
yet very little theorized” (Chaney, 192), a commercial object
whose material production remains mystified and potentially
marked by a double life” (Shesgreen, 2009).
In 30 years of problematizing anthologies, the primary re-
sponse has changed anthology inventory, and thus the tables of
contents of contemporary survey anthologies bear an equal
number of female and male authors. Any recent edition of the
two leading survey anthologies, the Norton and Heath antholo-
gies of American Literature, shows this shift. What is le ss clear
is the representation of gender in apparatus narratives like the
prefaces and overviews. As women authors have been more
represented in their tables of contents, have they also been rep-
resented more in the anthologiesstories of edition and nation?
In such narratives, are women still marginal to US literary his-
tory? Or do they alter or enhance it?
Along with the inventory focus of anthology revisions, there
are at least two explanations for little analysis of gender in the
anthology apparatus. First, despite that editorial discourse also
helps re/construct a particular kind of canon, anthology edito-
rial texts are seen as pedagogical and therefore apolitical and
unimportant (Aull, 2012). Sec o nd, there are no anthology stud-
ies that systematically analyze the apparatus materials. They
often highlight editorial introductions, especially prefaces, as
part of anthology examination1, but they do so by examining
ideas and language in individual texts rather than across them.
Approaches that look across many texts such as corpus linguis-
tics have not been used in anthology study, despite the scrutiny
of anthology inventory in the late 20th century and despite cor-
pus linguistic analysis of literary texts2. Resulting limitations
in our knowledge of how gender representation in American
anthologies has evolved (or not)—are twofold: 1) we have l ittle
analysis of editorial representation of women and men in an-
thologies; and, more generally, 2) we have little knowledge of
how recurring patterns of pedagogical discourse construct gen-
A New Kind of Anthology Analysis
Taking up the premise that editorial anthology discourse
e.g., see: Arac, 2008; Brown, 2010; Csicsila, 1998;
Dyer, 2001; Egan, 1997
Elmer, 2008; Graff, 1987; P. Lauter, 1991; Lockard & Sandell, 2008;
Papadima, Damrosch, & D
haen, 2011; Ruland, 1991; Shum way, 1994a).
2Corpus linguistics facilitates analysis of large bodies of comparative texts
with the help of computer-based tools. See endnote 4 for more detail.
speaks to embedded national and disciplinary beliefs about
women and men, the following analysis begins to explore what
those beliefs seem to be and, more exceptionally, how they are
realized in language patterns across time in the Heath and Nor-
ton American anthologies. Among other editorial materials, the
anthology preface (the story of the anthology and edition) and
the period overview (the story of American national and literary
history by periods) construct an overarching narrative of an-
thology and nation and comprise what I refer to as the appara-
tus3. Like the prefaces, the period overviews are a kind of
paratext, a privileged site of a pragmatics and a strategythat
strives to act upon readers a more pertinent reading—more
pertinent, n aturally, in the eyes of the author and [his/her] allies
(Genette & Maclean, 1991: pp. 261-262). While the overviews
offer a periodized narrative that places the subsequent texts in
an ultimately promotional national story, the prefaces offer a
promotional frame for the anthology and edition as a whole.
Both intimate a mediating, authoritative role and pertinent
reading. They articulate what one needs to know about the US
and the anthology in order to read its literature meaningfully,
and their discourse helps reflect and realize particular assump-
tions about the nation, its literatures, and literary study. I refer
to the prefaces and overviews as the apparatus because they
part of a larger machine (the anthology) while also constituting
a mechanism in and of themselves; they are in this way
paratextual as well as textual.
In order to look over time and across more than one anthol-
ogy, the following analysis examines all prefaces and over-
views of the Norton and Heath anthologies of American litera-
ture, from the first publication (1979) to the most recent (2010).
These two are by no means the only survey anthologies; but
they are valuable here because they are the most adopted survey
anthologies and are regularly evoked as representations of a
more “traditional(Norton) and “reformist” (Heath) approach
to greater inclusion of women and other historically-margina-
lized groups (Arac, 2008; Bennett, 1991; Elmer, 2008; Jay,
1991; Lockard & Sandell, 2008)4. The analysis draws on both
corpus (computer-aided) linguistic and rhetorical approaches in
order to illuminate patterns in individual texts as well as across
texts and over time. The studys limitation to only these two
conventional survey anthologies therefore enables an in-depth
look across 30 years of changes in two widely-adopted and
allegedly-opposed anthologies.
A rhetorical and linguistic analysis of these anthologies
prefaces and overviews shows that women are now mentioned
more frequently, but in ways that should give us pause, part i-
cularly inside anthologies that claim to revise women’s repre-
sentation in the US canon. These patterns suggest that the relati-
ve invisibility of the apparatus has permitted more “inclusive”,
but reductive and inequitable, representations of women and men.
This essay thu s ai ms to unde rscore that the appa ratus is a part
of the cultural narratives of anthologies, but to more impor-
tantly expose subtle, asy mmetrical gender representations in the
apparatus that oppose the espoused values of the anthologies. In
the first aim, I hope to cast the more often-studied anthology
literary genres as part of a broader intertextual processthat
includes the apparatus—as part of a larger system of genres in
which all texts function (Frow, 2006: p. 142). At the same time,
this analysis demonstrates that anthology apparatus texts are
themselves unique sites of contested versions of American cul-
ture and canon, not least because prefaces narrate anthologies
involvement in canon discussions and period overviews fre-
quently do “recovery” work for groups traditionally underrep-
resented in US literary history5. Accordingly, this analysis fo-
cuses on individual editorial texts but also recurring patterns
across them that are otherwise difficult to note in traditional
analytic methods. In so doing, it offers an exploratory illustra-
tion of new sites (apparatus materials) and new methods (com-
bined linguistic and rhetorical analysis) for examining gender
representation in American anthologies.
Analysis of Gender Pro/Nouns in the Norton and
Heath Apparatus
The first Norton edition in 1979 boasts that it includes a
revolutionary twenty-nine women (out of over 90 authors) in
order to redress the long neglect of women writers; Norton
still later published the Norton Anthology of Literature by
Women in response to feminist critiques about the nature and
narrowness of the Norton’s “inclusions” (Lockard & Sandell,
2008). The first Heath preface (as well as its preceding project
Reconstructing American Literatures) asked, “where are the
women?as a key premise for the creation of the Heath, and
Lauter and his colleagues emphasized the need for courses that
made women and crucial female experiencesmore visible
(1983: p. xvi). Just as representation of women and men has
been a key issue in canon debates, these exa mples highlig ht the
importance of the issue of gender representation for publishers,
editors, teachers, scholars, and students involved in the produc-
tion and use of American Literature anthologies.
According to the notion that their selected literary authors
and texts primarily define an anthology, examples like the
Norton and the Heath have now heeded or even initiated de-
mands for equal representation. What is less transparent is the
representation in the anthology apparatus: do the period over-
views and the prefaces offer a balanced account of the impor-
tance of female and male figures in US literary history? Given
each anthologys self-articulations as well as decades of femi-
nist critique of anthologies, it seems reasonable to assume there
At the same tim
e, it is important to note that the other texts surrounding
them influence the ways that these editorial texts function; I identify all of
the follo wing as texts th at fun ction both ind epend ently and inter depend ently
in American literature anthologies. This
study focuses on 7 and 8 but pr
vokes questions about the oth
ers as well. 1) Anthology cover and binding; 2
Title pages and publishing information (what Genette calls the publishers’
“perit ext
”, tho ugh I separate th e cover fro m these); 3) Table of contents;
Word, title, and author indexes
; 5)
Citations (bibliograph ic information and
copyright notices)
; 6) Author biographies; 7) Preface to the anthology;
Historical period overviews
; 9) Legal historical documents (e.g., The De
laration of Indepe
ndence); 10)
Prose categorized as literature (e.g., short
stories and novels)
; 11) Poetry categorized as literature; 12)
representations (aside from the cover)
4To enable t hi s app roach , I di giti zed al l p ref aces an d p er io d ov ervi ews o f al l
editions of the Norton and Heath Anthologies of American Literature since
their r espective begin nings in 1979 and 1989. This pr ocess made each p ref-
ace and period overview (including subsections) available in pdf form as
well as character
-recognizable text files, which I analyzed with the help o
AntConc concordance software
(Anthony, 2005)
. Antho logy cit atio ns ar e as
(Nina Baym, 1989; Nina Baym, 1995, 1998, 2002b; N. Baym, et
2007; N. Baym, et
al., 1985; Gottesman et al., 1979; P. Lauter & Bru
1990; P. Lauter, et al., 2002, 2005, 2009; P. Lauter, Yarborough, & Bruce,
1994, 1998) .
5As an illustration: la ter editions of the Norton include subsections that often
detail ex periences of und errepresented groups; e.g. th e subsection over view
“Native Americans: Removal and Resistance” in the Norton 7
edition, volume B (1820
1865); I of fer oth er ex amples , su ch as “t he W oman
Question” subsections in the Heath, in the analysis below.
is minimal representation of women in early Norton apparatus
texts and then increasingly balanced representation in later ones,
and that the Heath achieves this goal earlier and more consis-
tently. Given that personal pronouns (she, he, his, him, her) and
gendered nouns (man/en, woman/en) are used to refer to ante-
cedent nouns or noun phrases (often at considerable length), the
discursive manifestation would be that gendered pro/nouns
would at first be dominated by the masculine forms (especially
in the Norton) and would in later editions be more or less
Examining the use and quantity of these gendered nouns and
pronouns is one way to explore the breadth and depth of cov-
erage of important figures in apparatus discourse7. A premise
underlying this approach is that discourse as well as details
shape the representation of social groups and individuals—and
not always in readily-obvious ways. That is, it not only ma tters
that women are mentioned in historical accounts in an anthol-
ogy; the cumulative effect of subtle discourse patterns also
matters. Below, I map out gendered noun and pronoun patterns
in individual Norton and Heath texts first, in order to show how
disparate patterns are realized in single texts. The global, cor-
pus patterns offered subsequently show how frequently these
patterns occur over time and texts. The order of sections below,
however, is only for the sake of clarity and reader familiarity;
the analysis itself was far more recursive; each analytic ap-
proach informed and overlapped with the other.
How Gendered Pro/Nouns Ope ra te in the Apparatus
As in other written texts, quantities of personal pronouns in
the Norton and Heath prefaces and overviews correspond to the
detail afforded to the pronounsantecedents. For example, in
the following two sentences from early 19th century period
overviews, the first characterizes a writer in more detail than
the second, and there are also more personal pronouns in the
first (emphasis mine):
When the newly unemployed Hawthorne remarked inThe
Custom-Housepreface to The Scarlet Letter that his Puritan
ancestors would have been aghast at the thought that he was a
merewriter of storybooks”, he was also speaking to his
self-conscious sense that he was failing to live up to contempo-
rary expectations of manly republican authorship (Norton 7th).
Harriet Jacobs survives the rigors of nearly seven years hid-
ing in an attic through the support of her family, which , much
of the time, she can only hear (Heath 6th).
Predictably, in anthology period overviews, singular nouns
and pronouns refer to important individual figures, most often
writers, in order to facilitate elaboration. Many of the words
surrounding these singular pro/nouns are similar regardless of
whether they refer to males or females; they primarily descri be
the writer’s influences and experiences with artistic movements
and cultural events. In the Heath (all overviews, all editions),
for example, two of the most frequent nouns that collocate (or
co-occur) with her are life” and “husband”, and two of the
most frequent nouns collocating with his are lifeand wife ”.
Singular pronouns often emerge in descriptions of the intersec-
tion between writerslives and writing, such as in the following
two examples from the Norton 7th edition 1914-1945 period
overview: “Just as his contemporaries in poetry and fiction
were changing and questioning their forms, so Eugene O’Neill
sought to refine his. He experimented…”; and Zora Neale
Hurston drew on her childhood memories of the all-black town
of Eatonville, Florida, for much of her best-known fiction…
(emphasis mine).
In addition to facilitating descriptions of key figures, editors
use personal pronouns as they foreground key texts. For exam-
ple, in the following passage, Norton editors indicate the im-
portance of the following texts during the 1914-1945 period
they title American literature between the wars”:
Many writers of the post-Civil War period were still active in
the 1920s and 1930s: for example, Hamlin Garland, the
spokesman for literary naturalism, wrote his four-v olume auto-
biography between 1917 and 1930; Edith Wharton published
her masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, in 1920 (Norton 3rd;
emphasis mine).
As in descriptions of writers’ influences, pronouns around
descriptions of key texts are used similarly whether in descrip-
tions of male or female figures.
Finally, pronouns also appear in overviews in service of
elaboration on literary figures vis-à-vis larger movements or
historical moments, though these do not always play out
equally for women and men. Individual women, unlike men,
are most often characterized in light of their collective gendered
groups experience in the given literary or historical moment.
For example, in the Heath overview of the early nineteenth
century (6th edition), the editors write that Emersons The
American Scholarsignified a turning point in our cultureby
marking the beginning of the American Renaissance”. The
narrative goes on to describe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
As reviewer and arbiter of literary taste, he would also sig-
nificantly shape the reputations and careers of American writers,
including most notably those of his fellow Bowdoin graduate,
Nathaniel Hawthorne”. The description then mentions Oliver
Wendell Holmespoetry and also Angelina Grimké, who “had
issued her tract Appeal to the Christian Women of the South
and thus “extended womens participation in the political and
literary life of the republic” (emphasis mine). As the passage
continues, it narrates the publications of John Greenleaf Whit-
tier, Elijah P. Lovejoy, and Frederick Douglass, all as individ-
ual contributions. The rhetorical organization of the above pas-
sage is a significant and common one in the anthology appara-
tus: the editors describe a literary moment, including many
male authors that help define it; when editors mention a female
author in that same moment, they often characterize her ac-
cording to her defining social group, women. The pronouns and
nouns above reflect this pattern: singular pronouns he, his, and
her, serve elaboration about an author (e.g., details about
Longfellow and Grimké), and the plural noun (wome n) signals
detail about a gendered group.
The rhetorical moves that make such gendered discrepancies
possible sometimes follow the pattern of the Grimké example
above: a period or movement is introduced, including individu-
als who defined that moment; within that description, women
are mentioned as a group vis-à-vis that moment, often as an
elaboration of the work of an individual woman (if mentioned).
6Other gendered plural referents, such as ladies and gentlemen or boys and
girls, appeared too rarely in the anthologies to be of the same significance,
and so they are not include d here.
Another question I had was whether or not “he”,
“his” or “man/men” were
used in generic terms to refer to individual and collective human beings in
the anthologies. With the exception of material quoted by the editors, these
terms are not used in this way except in the Norton 1
st and 2nd
editions, in
which “ma n” i s us ed a few times as a synonym for “human”; t he other terms
are very rarely used generically, hence my focus on
he, she, her, his, him
women, and men.
Perhaps the most obvious form this pattern can take is the form
of a broader section (e.g. American literature 1820-1865”)
with a subsection devoted to Women writers” or the Woman
Question”. For example, i n the Heat h 1st edition, the 1865-1910
overview lays out the whole period, then moves into a Pub-
lishing and Writing” subsection, followed by Women Writers
as the subsequent subsection. The Women Writerssubsection
The most important pre-Civil War woman writer, Emily
Dickinson, had been a recluse all her life. But the single most
significant fact about women as a group in the post-war period
was undoubtedly their visibility, as they increasingly moved
outside the home to claim a place in the public world (Heat h 1st
This passage categorizes Emily Dickinson as a woman writer
and then continues on to make a generalization about women
during the period—one that is apparently more significant and
generalizable than Dickinson’s reclusiveness. In later Heath
editions (2nd - 6th), a similar subsection is entitled Literature
and the ‘Woman Question’” or Circumstances and Literary
Achievements of Women”. Interestingly, in the 5th and 6th edi-
tions of the Heath, Emily Dickinson is no longer used as a tran-
sition, and the above generalization is revised to read: But the
single most significant fact about women, especially white,
middle-class women, as a group in the post-war period was
their visibility…(emphasis mine). Though still addressing
women in terms of their collectivevisibility”, this revision
includes a qualification in terms of race and class as well as a
removal of “undoubtedly” from the earlier t ext.
The discursive pattern of introducing a period and then ad-
dressing “womenin tha t same moment occurs without explicit
subsections as well. For example, the Norton 7th edition over-
view of American Literature since 1945introduces the Six-
ties as reallybeginning with the assassination of John F.
Kennedy and then describes women, in broad strokes, at that
same time: For the first time since the Suffrage movement
following World War I, women organized to pursue their legal,
ethical, and cultural interests, now defined as feminism”. In
another example, this time from the Heath, editors name indi-
vidual male writers but address women as a group in order to
characterize (and contrast) men and women in the 1945-present
subsection entitled The ‘American Century’: From Victory to
Vietnam”. The overview states:
Poor, marginalized men like Ellison, Baldwin, Kerouac, and
Ginsberg struggled to get their experiences and visions into
print, but women writers of the 1950s and 1960s were also
revealing a widespread resistance to the cultural expectations,
especially those that would keep them barefoot, pregnant, and
in the kitchen (Heath 6th 1945-present).
After this description, the editors mention Betty Friedan’s
The Feminine Mystique” in terms of its exploration of the
discontentment that so many middle-class women were experi-
encing” (but do not offer details about Friedan’s life as an indi-
vidual). In a similar example, the Norton 5th edition 1620-1820
overview mentions the beliefs of three individual men—Fre-
neau, Franklin, and Crevecoeur—during Enlightenment in the
US. As a result of such ideas, the passage intimates, women
responded: “Fired by Enlightenment ideals of reason and equal-
ity, women began to speak and write on public subjects and to
agitate for their rights as citizens; the passage then returns to
individual men, describing that In many ways it is Franklin
who best represents the spirit of the Enlightenment in America:
self-educated, social, assured, a man of the world, ambitious
and public-spirited…”
Other examples of references to women as a group include
more general descriptions like: more women than ever in
American history are writing fiction, me moir, cultural and so-
cial criticism…(Norton 7th); cultural norms for women
(Heath 6th); or the famous quote by Hawthorn, reprinted in the
Norton 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 1820-1865 period overview and the
1800-1865 overview of every edition of the Heath: that
damned mob of scribbling women”. In contrast, men as a group
are more often talked about in conjunction with women, in
terms of society or human beings more generally (e.g., “In the
United States, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, as the
men and women who wrote…” [Heath 6th]).
In sum, then, editors use personal pronouns to offer more
detail about individual figures of importance, vis-à-vis events,
movements, and texts, and, when used, the singular pronouns
are similar whether referring to females or males; they enable
elaboration about the lives and experiences of national and
literary figures without restating names. But a closer look
across anthology period overviews, elucidated in the next sec-
tion, shows that in quantity, there are differences: there are far
more singular male pronouns, and individual males are covered
in more detail than individual females. In contrast, plural gen-
dered references show the opposite pattern. Women are dis-
cussed far more often as a group—disproportionately more than
they are addressed as single individuals as well as dispropor-
tionately more than men are addressed as a collective group.
Such patterns also mean that there are more sweeping charac-
terizations of women than of men as a group, and that it is far
more likely that an individual woman will be used to speak for
and about women of her time than an individual man to do the
The discursive pattern of men-as-individuals and women-
as-group is worth examining further because it suggests that
how women are included and discussed in anthologies may still
Other and tokenize them even as editors strive to draw attention
to them. The corpuslinguistic examination of gendered pro/
nouns below offers a view of patterns like those above across
time and apparatus texts.
Examining Gendered Pro/Nouns Across Time and
Though uncommon in literary studies, corpus linguistic anal-
ysis complements single-text analysis. Particularly for studies
like this one, interested in language use that recurs enough to
shape collective expectations and impressions, corpus linguis-
tics helps illuminate discourse patterns otherwise difficult to
note in aggregation. Informed by and informing the rhetorical
analysis above, the corpus linguistics analysis below quantifies
the number of appearances of each gendered pronoun and noun
in the apparatus of all editions of the Heath and Norton to help
expose representation in ways distinct from human readers.
Given the reputations of the Norton (as more canonical) and
the Heath (as more liberal), the comparative frequencies of
gendered nouns and pronouns terms show compelling similari-
ties and differences, which I represent graphically as well as in
terms of ratios and raw numbers below. Figure 1 shows the
distribution of all gendered pro/nouns in all prefaces and period
overviews of editions 1 - 7 of the Norton Anthology of Ameri-
can Literature. Figure 2 shows the same ineditions 1 - 6 of the
Heath Anthology of American Literature. The figures visually
capture frequency differences between individual references
and group references in the anthologies.
As Figures 1 and 2 reveal, in both anthologies, male refer-
ents account for the majority of gendered pro/nouns overall,
and the female referent women appears more than men. But
there are notable differences between the two anthologies. Fe-
male referants account for a much higher 44% of the total
Heath distribution (Figure 2) compared to less than 25% in the
Norton (Figure 1). Another noteworthy difference between the
two anthology’s noun distribution is the frequent use of women
in the Heath, over twice the word’s frequency in the Norton.
Put in terms of relative frequencies over time, the Norton
patterns change more than those of the Heath8. The preface and
period overviews of the Heath 1st edition (published in 1989)
shows word frequencies that are not much different than those
of the Heath 6th edition (published in 2009): in the 1st edition
apparatus, the ratio of terms women to men is 34 to 11, while
the ratio of she to he is 7 to 22; the ratio of her9 to his/him is 1 8
to 36. The similar ratios from the 6th edition are: wome n to men,
28 to 10; she to he, 5 to 18; and her versus his/him, 15 to 32.
The Norton, in contrast, shows drastic change between its 1st
and 7th edition. In the Norton 1st edition (published in 1979), the
ratio of terms wome n to men is 8 to 9, while she versus he is
grossly unbalanced at 2 to 46. The ratio of her to his/him is 11
to 71. In the Norton 7th edition (published in 2007), the ratio of
terms women to men changed to 19 to 6, while the ratio of she
to he cha nge d to 5 t o 23 a nd her to his /him changed to 14 to 43.
Overall, these ratios reflect change in the Norton over time and
the general pattern of singular pronouns dominated by male
referents and plural nouns dominated by the female referent.
These relative frequencies, which facilitate comparison be-
tween the anthologies, are striking; but the raw numbers across
all editions of each anthology are equally striking when we
imagine that thousands of students over time have encountered
anthologies and read them without paying conscious attention
to gender pro/noun patterns. In the apparatus of the Heath (all
editions), the word men appears 801 times, compared to 2249
appearances of women. In the same texts, he appears 1836
times while she appears 477 times. In the corresponding appa-
ratus of the Norton (all period overviews and prefaces of all
editions), women appears 465 times compared to men appearing
231 times; in contrast, he appears 1224 times while she appears
only 116 times10.
Figure 1.
Norton distribution of gendere d nouns and pronouns across all editions.
Figure 2.
Heath distr ibution of gendered no uns and pronouns across all editions.
Finally, in order to address the potential perception that
greater detail about male individuals in US literary history is
due to a scarcity of early historical records on US women
(though the anthologiesalleged projects of “redressing” ne-
glect of women writers and experiences stipulates historical
recovery work on the part of the editors/anthology), it is worth
noting that the pattern of references to male individuals and
women as a group similar in analyses of only the most recent
overviews and editions. In the contemporary overview of the
most recent Heath, female referents account for 35% of the
singular pronouns but 79% of the plural nouns. In the corre-
sponding overview in the Norton, female references account for
only 18% of the singular pronouns but 83% of the plural
nouns11. As in the overall corpus trends, singular pro/nouns are
overwhelmingly male referents, while gendered group titles
show the opposite pattern.
Of my original speculations about the anthology appara-
tus—that Norton editions would move from little representation
of women to increasingly balanced representation while the
Norton: Distribution of gendered nouns and pronouns:
(all editions, all prefaces and overviews)
Heath: Distribution of gendered nouns and pronouns (all editions)
8Here I am refer ring t o relati ve, nor malized freq uencies in order to facili tate
comparing the observed distributions across corpus texts that are different
lengths (this is important given than Heath period overviews are generally
longer than those of the Norton). The relative frequency
of , for example,
“women” in the Heath 1
st edition preface and period overviews can be o
tained by dividing the number of occurrences of “women” (350) by the total
number of words in these texts (102, 771). Since the resulting number
(.0034056) is small and hard to interpret, we can additionally norm by an
arbitrary value. Relative frequencies are typically normalized to ten thou-
sand. In my example, then, the relative frequency of “women” in the Heath
st edition subcorpus would be .0034056 * 10000 = 34.056
, or 34. I have
rounded numbers to the nearest whole number, rounding the number up for
all values
.5 and higher, down for b elow .5.
The uses of “hers” in all texts
and editions were too rare as to have above
a .0 or .1 relative frequency (most often occurring fewer than 1 time per
100,000 words of editor ial text), and this pronoun is thus not repr esented in
the tables and charts.
In these same texts, in the Heath: his appears 2553 ti mes while her
1274 times; in the Norton:
his appears 1874 times while her
appears 464
These numbers are not normalized, as I compare them only within
each anthology.
These frequencies come from the contemporary overviews (1945-
in only the most recent edition of the Heath and the Norton (published in
2009 and 2007 respectively).
Heath editions would achieve gender balance earlier and more
consistently—only one turned out to be true: over time, Norton
editorial texts mention more individual woman and reference
women more as a group as well. Yet there is little equality in
the details offered about women and men. Both the quantitative
and rhetorical analysis reflect a pattern of more male pro/nouns
in all singular references, particularly those most commonly
used to provide more elaborate details about a named individual
figure without renaming the figure (he and his ). In contrast, the
plural references are dominated by the female form women.
While such patterns can be noted in individual texts, their
magnitude is difficult or impossible to grasp without such
methods: close textual analysis helps make clear that singular
pronouns are used in similar ways whether referring to females
or males; coupled with corpus analysis, it becomes clear that
nonetheless, male singular pronouns are used far more often. A
combined rhetorical and corpus analysis of anthology apparatus
reflects important discursive and thematic patterns which, re-
gardless of the period, edition, o r more traditional or revisionist
orientation of the anthology, figuremen and women differently
in the apparatus narrative of the canon. In two anthologies used
in thousands of classrooms now and in the past, women appear
to be an important group, with both the shackles and possibili-
ties of being cast and understood primarily in terms of their
gendered group. Men are cast primarily as important individu-
als, with both the opacity and opportunities inherent therein.
Final Considerations: Quantitative Language
Analysis and Canonical Awareness
Before closing, I want to underscore claims related to my
analytic approach, particularly vis-à-vis concerns about digital
technologies and literary studies. The analysis above fore-
grounds an uncommon approach in anthology studies, which I
have emphasized is mutually-generative. Written textsand
thus the social and textual expectations that inform them
shape and are shaped by the rhetorical content of single texts as
well as the effect of repeating patterns across texts; these pat-
terns are not all visible in only single texts or only across many
of them. Critical analysis of our textual world is accordingly
enhanced by examination of both recurring patterns across texts
as well as how those patterns are realiz ed in in d ividual texts.
This analytic approach also coincides with existing ideas re-
lated to teaching American literature. One of these ideas is that
cultural texts from the literary to the everyday contain subtex-
tual messages within them, and that part of our work as teachers
and scholars is to uncover and interrogate those messages. A
second, related idea is that part of critical reading and writing is
re-viewing texts from different perspectives—of entering old
texts from newly critical directions. In the case of a feminist
perspective, Adrienne Rich has suggested such re-viewing can
be “an act of survivalbeca use it is only thus tha t we resist the
self-destructiveness” of a male-dominated society (18). Judith
Fetterley suggests that this kind of feminist re-viewing of texts
precedes the re-vision, or change, of sexist ideas (viii).
These two ideas—the importance of re-viewing texts and of
recognizing the power of subtext—are related to the pedagogi-
cal concerns of the late 20th century noted in the opening para-
graph: that uninterrogated texts and practices can operate in our
classrooms, and that university English courses can empower
students with an alternative, critical perspective. The evidence
in this study suggests that a combined qualitative and quantita-
tive approach makes such re-viewing possible in literal and
theoretical ways. Literally, the approach exposes quantitative
patterns across many texts which are illuminated by critical
reading of individual texts; more theoretically, it casts individ-
ual texts as working in intertextual, dialectic relation to other
texts, a notion that challenges understandings based on more
linear reading practices.
These possibilities take on particular exigency in light of the
recent publication of Google’s Ngram Viewer 12, a searchable
corpus of the 500 million books digitized by Google in recent
years. Described as a New Window on Culturein the New
York Times, t his corpus is indeed by far the largest corpus in the
world13. Yet while it allows an exciting look at the changing
quantities of particular words and phrases in books across time,
it does not suggest the importance of the textual contexts of
those same words and risks glossing over the value of combin-
ing quantitative data with more qualitative analysis.
In a simple example, consider Figure 3, which shows the ap-
pearances of women (blue line) and men (red line) from 1980-
2000 in the Google books corpus.
The image in Figure 3 offers acompelling pattern: in these
500 million digitized books, references to women clearly sur-
passed references to men at some point in the mid-1980s. Such
a shift speaks to important changes in cultural values and lin-
guistic practices. Yet without a view of the actual texts, we
miss crucial information: for example, how often women ap-
pears alone versus in phrases with men (e.g., American men and
women), or how often references to men are meant t o imply all
human beings, or only men. Likewise, we cannot tell whether
these references are written by men or women or in what kinds
of texts th ey are most likely to appear. Even these basic detail s
would be important for illuminating what these patterns tell us
about shifts in cultural values vis-à-vis the use of the terms
women and men. Accordingly, a risk for this kind of quantita-
tive approach in scholarship and in teaching is that it glosses
over the important work done in individual examples and in
particular genres. It can offer a way into texts, but should not
stop there; for example, this same search could be the impetus
for a closer look at texts published between the years of
1984-1988, which appears to be a significant time in the history
of these words in books written in English. These directions
could be further refined using a corpus with more context sur-
rounding each word, like COCA or COHA, which allows for
comparisons across different kinds of books14. Such a dual way
into texts underscores the importance of rhetorical features as
they contribute to persistence and change in widely-circulating
texts such as anthologies. And it challenges us to consider that
some of the power of texts and linguistic norms are precisely
those we do not always see unless we re-view them in newly
critic al ways.
The notion that it is not enough to only incl u de” underrep-
resented groups in the canon is not new. But there is not a sure-
fire way to do more, especially in anthologies that simultane-
ously narrate traditionally-represented voices. This study shows
one clear manifestation of the problematics of inclusion without
rethinking (discursive) exclusion, in efforts to aid
For more, see h ttp ://
See http://corpus.b for a descri
tion by COCA/COHA founder Mark Davies of why COCA “often produces
much more insightful analyses for cultural and societal shifts” than
Google’s new corpus.
Figure 3.
Google Ngram view of use of women, men over time.
editorial and pedagogical re-vision practices. Women included
but referred to primarily as a single group, alongside men re-
ferred to primarily as individuals, may l argely reinfor ce a “gen-
der-asy m metric culture(Nina Baym, 2002a) by glossing over
individuation and group socialization for women and men. Put
another way, at stake in such discourse patterns for scholars and
teachers is not only the importance of portraying individual
women who have made an impact in US cultural history but
also attending to the significance of all gendered socialization
and to the often-subtle ways that it occurs. We want instead to
rethink what we already know and assume through what we
newly understand and include in our histories and canons
(Robinson, 1987: pp. 26-27). We have new possibilities for that
kind of work, for analyzing national, literary narratives and
examining the myriad ways we discursively include and ex-
clude certain people and groups. Such practices help us respond
to 20th-century cries for change in 21st-century ways: new ways
to do more than add and stir, or add and other: new ways to
change the world by changing the consciousness of those who
read and their relations to what they read(Fet terley, 1978: p.
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