On May 7th, 2018, J.D. Porter and Erik Fredner presented "Reading the Norton Anthologies of American Literature”.
As one of the most prominent commercial literary anthologies and a pedagogical tool commonly used at both undergraduate and graduate levels, Norton has been in the business of binding literary canons for more than half a century. How, then, has Norton constructed its literary canon, and how has it changed over time? This project analyzes every text and excerpt selected for every edition of the Norton Anthologies of American Literature (NAAL) published to date. We explore the trajectories not only of individual authors and works, but broader trends of inclusion and exclusion in the Norton’s canon. Finally, this project reflects more generally on the 20th century construction and renovation of the American literary canon, focusing not on the well-known interventions of the early 20th century that canonized writers like Melville and Hawthorne, but rather on the representation of the American literary canon since 1979, when the first edition of the NAAL was released.