Monday, August 30, 2010

Literary Stock Market

Maybe because I'm working at present on a figure whose critical stock was once high but has fallen dramatically, I'd like to see someone (not me) put together a line graph called the "Literary Stock Market." Although you can get a sense of this if you read the year-end reviews in various discplines, it'd be nice to see this in graphics form, wouldn't it?

Although numbers of conference, conference panels, and so on could help to determine rankings, you could also get a pretty good ranking by basing the Literary Stock Market on the numbers of citations in the MLA Bibliography each year, for a start. Whoever puts together the Literary Stock Market could also have little line indicators giving possible reasons if there are drastic rises and falls. For example, if you were working on James Fenimore Cooper (I'm making this up), there could be a spike and decline around the topics of American exceptionalism and the whole "American Adam" idea, maybe followed by a revival after postcolonial theory arrives. It would be hugely interesting as well to see how authors neglected in previous centuries have been revived or recovered.

You could also do this with individual books, as the classic, must-read novel of one generation of critics recedes before an interest in another of the author's books. You'd probably want to limit this to a particular area or time period, too, since following more than 15 or so lines would make the viewer dizzy.

I think you could do this in history: topics or figures once considered essential for study may have fallen into obscurity, and previously neglected topics may come to the fore.

Are there any figures in your discipline whose stock on the Literary Stock Market has fallen particularly far, or whose star has risen drastically?

[Edited to add: Speaking of popularity, that's why Joel Stein is against net neutrality. Shorter Joel Stein in this week's Time magazine: "Some sites should receive priority, including Fox News, if they are more important to many people, and especially to me, Joel Stein. How dare independent sites get in the way of my Glenn Beck, Lady GaGa, and Lindsay Lohan news? Fie upon the masses yearning for unpopular information not sponsored by a corporation! Let them eat cake--or at least wait longer while I get vital updates paid for by corporate America!" The article is so ridiculous that I think, or maybe hope, that he's kidding.]


zunguzungu said...

Bernth Lindfors had a "Famous Authors Reputation Test" by which he tabulated which were the most popualr AFrican writers to write about in that way (the acronym reveals how seriously he took the endeavor, though it was still a nice piece of work)

Bardiac said...

The metaphysical poets rose dramatically with the new critics. In terms of undergrad survey's, they're widely taught, but I bet they don't garner as many dissertations these days?

Anonymous said...

Are there any figures in your discipline whose stock on the Literary Stock Market has fallen particularly far, or whose star has risen drastically?

One obvious name springs to mind immediately: Karl Marx. Less obviously, Leopold Ranke. And Gibbon has become this weird phenomenon like a periodic star that is dark most of the time but flares up every time someone writes a book saying "actually, you know, the barbarians really did/didn't kill the Roman Empire".

I shouldn't introduce astronomical analogies; now I want to try and graph a Main Sequence of historians.

Anonymous said...

I would love graphs charting this for authors...would be fabulous.

undine said...

zunguzungu, I hadn't seen that and will have to look it up (I wouldn't have noticed the acronym!).

Bardiac, I remember some professors who were so in love with the metaphysicals that they told us as a near-factual statement that everything else was--well, not worth reading. They must have come out of the new criticism.

tenthmedieval--that's strange about Gibbon. I didn't know that historians were still attending to his ideas (not that I would know). If you make that chart, I want to see it!

Ink, I'd love this, too. I could see how it could be a great pedagogical tool, too, since students would have to research larger trends in criticism to be able to do this.