Loosely apropos Ed Finn’s panel at DH on Pynchon, Matt Jockers and I were trying to guess the most-published-upon author in English. I figured Shakespeare, he suggested Joyce. This morning I ran a couple of quick queries on the MLA database and came up with the following:
Shakespeare Joyce 2008+ 716 151 2004+ 3826 937 1999+ 8159 2135 All (1923+) 35489 9315
There are some details to explain, but the take-away point is that Shakespeare seems to be the object of about four times more scholarship than Joyce.
The details: These are raw result counts for the subject queries “Shakespeare William” and “Joyce James,” both of which are defined subject headings in MLA. The counts are total matching items of all types (journal articles, refereed journal articles, books, chapters, and other) published from the listed year to the present. I didn’t make any attempt to distinguish major from minor works (e.g., books from articles), nor single-subject studies from multi-subject ones. This is obviously pretty non-rigorous, but it was good enough to satisfy my passing curiosity.
This is interesting and at least a little unexpected to me. I figured Shakespeare would be in the lead, especially over the full history of criticism, but I thought things would be much closer, especially in recent years. I wonder if part of the gap might be explained by a higher likelihood of talking about Shakespeare in any given English renaissance context than about Joyce in any given modernist one?