Anthology: Definition and Examples

The term anthology finds its roots in the Greek word anthologia, which translates to "a collection of flowers." In the literary context, an anthology refers to a compilation of various literary works, encompassing poems, plays, short stories, excerpts, and even contributions from television programs, dramas, movies, and songs. Anthologies come in diverse categories, including comic anthologies, essay collections, fiction anthologies, poetry anthologies, film anthologies, and television program anthologies. However, the most common category is the literary one, where editors curate selections from different sources and present them in book form.

Examples of Anthologies in Literature

Example #1: The Garden Party and Other Stories (by Katherine Mansfield)

Mansfield published her collection, “The Garden Party and Other Stories,” in 1922, just a year prior to her death due to tuberculosis.
She was a pioneer modernist writer, who was brought up in New Zealand, then moved to England, where she befriended Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence.
The title story is one of Mansfield’s well-known works, which she wrote in the modernist style, using a simple backdrop of a family making preparations for a beautiful garden party.
Mansfield, against this setting, has brilliantly interwoven meditations on life, class, illusion, reality, and death.
This is perhaps the first short story collection published by an English female writer, which included herself in her own anthology.

Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden Party and Other Stories" showcases her modernist style and explores themes of life, class, illusion, and reality within the backdrop of a garden party.

Example #2: The Collected Stories (by Lorrie Moore)

“The Collected Stories,” by Lorrie Moore, is a beautiful collection of tales that allows readers to plunge in and out of the writer’s experience observing human behavior.
Ms. Moore is famous for her sharp humor and ironic tone. Moore writes about family dynamics, infidelity, and terminal illness.
However, the way she shifts smoothly from one theme to another, makes this anthology a popular one.
The most popular story from this volume is, “How to Be an Other Woman.”
The book is counted as an excellent anthology of its time.

Lorrie Moore's "The Collected Stories" captivates readers with its exploration of human behavior, sharp humor, and smooth transitions between themes.

Example #3: The Faerie Queens (by David Rankine)

“The Faerie Queens” is another noted anthology of essays exploring magic, myths, and mythology in ancient times.
This collection is mysterious, otherworldly, and powerful, which has spread its magic across the entirety of Europe for centuries, captivating those who have read the essays.
In fact, Rankine has given his readers critical reviews of myths, mythologies, legends, and epic figures.

"The Faerie Queens" by David Rankine delves into the realms of magic, myths, and mythology through a collection of captivating essays.

Example #4: 100 Best Love Poems (by Philip Smith)

“100 Best Love Poems” is a popular collection of poems in the English language.
The works are compiled together, not only for their popularity, but also for their literary quality.
From the middle ages, to the twentieth century, these poems remain all-time favorites, and have the ability to captivate and engage the minds of readers, and keep their spirits fresh.

"100 Best Love Poems" curated by Philip Smith presents a timeless collection of English language poems celebrated for their literary quality and enduring ability to captivate readers.

Example #5: Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments (by Arthur F. Kinny)

“An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments” is a ground-breaking collection of non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama.
It covers a full sweep of dramatic performances, such as court masques, and state balls.
This second edition anthology includes pageants and plays that are not anthologized anywhere else, including plays about the coronation of Queen Anne and Elizabeth I, as well as “A Woman Killed with Kindness” by Thomas Heywood.
Mr. Kinny has added more material, including “The Second Shepherd’s Play,” “Noah,” “The Tragedy of Antony,” “The Malcontent,” and “The Masque of Queen.”

"Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments" curated by Arthur F. Kinny presents a comprehensive collection of non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama, offering insights into various dramatic performances and unique historical events.

Function of Anthologies

Anthologies serve several important functions:

  • Exploring Diversity: Anthologies provide readers with exposure to diverse places, experiences, and perspectives they might not encounter otherwise. By weaving together stories, poems, and plays with common themes, characters, or settings, anthologies offer a holistic view of the human experience.
  • Preventing Monotony: Anthologies keep readers engaged and prevent boredom by offering a variety of themes, styles, and elements. They enable readers to explore different worlds and emotions through a range of stories and poems united by a central theme.
  • Fostering Coherence: Skillfully curated anthologies create a sense of cohesion and coherence among diverse works, helping readers make meaningful connections. Anthologists carefully select pieces to form a unified whole that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Facilitating Learning: In educational contexts, anthologies provide a valuable resource for students. They allow students to access and analyze the best literary works organized by themes, times, reviews, critical theories, settings, and plots, aiding their understanding and critical analysis.
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