Perhaps nothing I have ever written has earned as much attention as what I posted yesterday — the MLA Rankings of American Writers. But I need to clarify, I guess. The rankings were determined by the amount of literary scholarship published on American writers, as listed in the MLA International Bibliography. The Modern Language Association, however, had nothing whatever to do with them. Officially or unofficially. And despite what has been tweeted:
The research behind the rankings was entirely my own. Not only am I not affiliated with the MLA in any way. I quit the organization in disgust over a decade ago.
The rankings are not a kind of coaches’ poll. They do not reflect the “popularity” of certain American writers, but the professional commitments, the devotion of time and energy, on the part of literary scholars. These are the writers who are principally taught in university English departments around the country, the writers who are being handed down to the next generation. If anyone asks, that’s the significance of the rankings.