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What is an Anthology?

Licia Morrow
Licia Morrow

An anthology, from the Greek meaning “a collection of flowers,” is a compilation of literature, media, or music, and may include essays, songs, poetry, television programs, movies, drama, and short fiction. The most common type of anthology is a literary one, often used in an educational setting. Most of these anthologies are compiled by an editor who chooses pieces of literature from other sources to publish them in one book for a specific purpose. For example, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature is a collection of writings by African American authors that spans 250 years of American culture and history. This type of text would commonly be used in a college literature class.

The first literary anthologies were focused on poetry and can be traced to the Greeks as far back as the 1st century BCE. A current literary anthology will usually revolve around a specific genre or time period in literary culture such as American literature written before the Civil War or Chinese-American Literature. Some anthologies revolve around a certain type of writing such as essays, poetry, plays, or short stories, but many include examples of each to define the entirety of a literary period or genre.

An anthology could be a collection of poems.
An anthology could be a collection of poems.

A musical anthology is often a compilation of a composer, singer, or band’s most popular songs. The Beatles Anthology would be an example of this type of collection. Another type of musical anthology can be compiled for the purpose of musical analysis. For example, one may want to collect just the music compositions of women and study their uses, history, similarities, and contrasts. The trend of musical collections became popular in the 16th century, sometimes with special emphasis on an individual or an event, such as the ascension to a throne.

Additionally, an anthology can combine pieces of media such as television or movies. For example, one might combine influential film noir movies into one collection or selected episodes of popular 1980’s sitcoms, and release them on a DVD.

Discussion Comments


@anon76953: I don't see why they wouldn't be. If you could make an anthology on the Beatles and only their music, for example, I'm sure you could do one one one specific person's stories.


Are the stories that ever make up an anthology ever written by the same person?

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    • An anthology could be a collection of poems.
      By: staz
      An anthology could be a collection of poems.