Anthology – Concept, characteristics, parts and examples

We explain what an anthology is, its characteristics, its component parts and examples. Also, how to make an anthology.

Anthologies are ideal for introducing new authors.

What is an anthology?

An anthology (from the Greek anthos, “Flower”, and legein, “choose”) is an orderly and justified compilation of different works of an artistic genre, considered outstanding or relevant by the person who carried out the selection (the anthologist or anthologizer).

Usually all the works that compose it revolve around a specific theme, perspective or historical moment. Thus, there may be literary, musical, cinematographic anthologies, etc., applying thematic, period, gender, etc. criteria.

Anthologies contain artistic works by different authors, different eras or different naturesa, depending on the common thread that serves as their nucleus. It is possible, for example, to anthologize the great love poems of the 20th century, or different versions of the same musical theme interpreted by different musicians in different musical genres.

Be that as it may, these are compilation projects, whose author is precisely the one who makes the selection, and who usually has the opportunity to explain their criteria in an introductory text.

Anthologies are ideal to publicize new pieces or authors, who share space with other more recognized ones, or because they summon the reader by the central theme and not by the names of the compiled authors. Therefore, variety is always a point in favor of anthologies.

Anthologies are so frequent in the world of literature that they are practically a genre unto themselves.

Characteristics of an anthology

The anthologies are characterized by the following:

  • They own a selection author (the anthologizer), while the collected works can be of very different authors, periods or tendencies.
  • Generally have a central criterion or nuclear, which justifies the selection of the compiled works: theme of the works, time of creation, etc. Also a type of works to choose from, that is, an artistic genre: poetry, narrative, music, etc.
  • They can include entire works, or fragments representative of them. It is also common for the anthologist to make notes, annotations or comments throughout the material.
  • They depend entirely on the criterion of the anthologist, that is, that there can be many different anthologies of the same topic, with important differences between them, depending on the criteria of who made the selection.
  • They are not finalRather, they can be redrafted in later editions and works can be added or excluded. They must always be considered as a partial and temporary view of matter.

Parts of an anthology

music anthology
Anthologies usually include an explanation of the selection criteria for works.

Anthologies usually consist of:

  • A preface or introductory text, in which the anthologist explains the criteria for his selection, tells of the difficulties he faced or the importance he attributes to the chosen texts, in short, he counts his criteria as curator of the exhibition.
  • The body of the anthology, which is the set of works (or fragments of them) chosen, ordered according to a temporal (historical), alphabetical, or personal (anthologue) criterion.
  • The references of the approved works, that is, what is the original context of each of the works (or fragments) that you selected for your anthology, together with important bibliographic data and the life of the author. In many cases, this information can also be found in the body of the anthology.

Examples of anthologies

Some examples of well-known anthologies are:

  • Anthology of Fantastic Literature, compiled in 1940 by the Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares.
  • Navigation of three centuries: Basic anthology of Venezuelan poetry 1826-2013, compiled in 2003 by the poet Joaquín Marta Sosa.
  • Personal anthology, a book by the Argentine author Ricardo Piglia in which he brings together fictions, essays and other materials of his own authorship.
  • Classical music anthology, in which Phillip G. Downs brings together 76 representative works of the music of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe.

How to make an anthology?

The work of composing an anthology is always vast and personal, and there are no formulas to follow to do it, but in very broad strokes it can be summarized in the following steps:

  • Choose the theme. Every anthology has a heart, a central theme that allows you to choose the texts that will compose it. Do we want to study the music of a specific period of our country? The political poetry of a specific period in our entire region? Young authors who are playing around there but haven’t published any books yet? The following steps depend on the choice of topic.
  • Do an archiving on the subject. This means that once we know the subject, we must investigate: read, listen, ask, consult other similar anthologies, in short, document ourselves as best as possible to know what is on the subject.
  • Carry out the selection. Once we know what is on the subject, we must proceed to choose. To do this, we must determine our criteria, which although they may be subjective (what we like!), We must also be able to say something about it, explain to those who later review our work what was the spirit that prompted us to choose some and not others.
  • Structure the anthology. After choosing the works that will make up the anthology, we must give them a specific order, which will be part of our criteria as anthologists (from the most recent to the oldest, or vice versa, depending on the age of the author, according to the initial letter of their Titles). Once this is done, we must decide if we will place the information of each author next to the work, or at the end, and if we will construct a text that serves as an introduction to each one, or simply leave the reader at ease.
  • Compose a preface. The preliminary text or preface, that is, the introduction, is essential in an anthology. This is where we will render accounts as anthologists, explaining the reason for our anthology, what were our criteria, our motivations, in short, everything that we consider necessary for the reader to know to better enjoy and contextualize our selection.