December 27, 2011

2011: An American Literary Year in Review

With only a few days left on the 2011 calendar, it seems like a good time to look back at 2011 on the American Literary Blog. Blog statistics might be slightly skewed, but it looks like the last 6 months sums up the popularity of specific posts fairly well. Here are, so far as I can tell, the most popular posts from 2011:

10. Marriage of Edgar Poe (May 16, 2010)

In this longer-than-average post, I wrote about the marriage of Edgar Allan Poe (age 27) and Virginia Clemm (age 13), and whether or not the age difference was unusual in those days. More importantly, I wrote extensively about their (presumed) sex life as a married couple. I'm sure the lack of the salacious disappointed those who found the post through Google. Still, the Poes drew enough interest that two posts about their marriage made it to this top 10 list (see number 4 below).

9. Death of Stephen Crane and O. Henry (June 5, 2010)

To tell the truth, I have no clear indication that the bigger draw to this post was Stephen Crane or O. Henry. They share a death anniversary (1900 and 1910, respectively). Incidentally, since writing this post, I have read significantly more of the work of both Crane and Henry.

8. Alcott: in a month I mean to be done" (November 1, 2010)

This letter from Louisa May Alcott includes the promise that the second volume of her book Little Women will be finished in a month. The letter, dated November 1, sparked some interest from participants in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Like Miss Alcott, those participants vowed to complete a novel in 30 days.

7. Whitman's funeral and burial (March 30, 2010)

This post focuses on the funeral of Walt Whitman. More importantly, it includes a photograph of the poet's death mask; from what statistics tell me, it's the image that has drawn people (morbidly curious?).

6. And the papers will tell you the rest (November 7, 2010)

This political limerick by a very young Ezra Pound in 1896 drew big numbers when it was originally posted, and remains strong today. My guess is that internet users have had difficulty finding the complete text of the poem, which I have so kindly provided here — along with an adorable image of the young Pound with his mother. 

5. Guest Post: Death of Poe and Holmes (October 7, 2010)
This entry was last year's most-visited post, and it still remains respectably in the top five. Here, historical novelist Matthew Pearl delves into his interest in Edgar Allan Poe and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who both died on the same day (albeit decades apart). Pearl has included both Poe and Holmes in his fiction (The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club, respectively). I'm sure Mr. Pearl deserves much of the credit for the popularity of this post; then again, Poe's death always draws the curious (and it doesn't hurt that it was October).

4. Death of Virginia Clemm Poe (January 30, 2010)
The confusing relationship between Edgar Allan Poe and his younger wife Virginia Clemm continues to draw interest from all corners. In this post, I look at their marriage, Poe's drinking habits, and his obsession with sick women in his writing — I only hope that some of the many visitors who read it every day note that I have attempted to knock down the assumptions that his wife's death drove him to drink or to obsess over sick women in his writing! 

3. De Forest: The Great American Novel (January 9, 2011)
One of the first posts of 2011, this analysis of John William De Forest's call for the "Great American Novel" remains unsurprisingly popular. From the responses I got, few actually knew that De Forest originated the term/challenge for American writing. With the context, I think the term makes more sense (and, in a way, leaves its meaning slightly less daunting).

2. Prohibition, temperance, and T. S. Arthur (January 16, 2010)
I'm perpetually surprised by the ongoing popularity of this post which, to be honest, I threw in as a sort of filler. One of my earliest posts (January 2010), it celebrates the first day that Prohibition took affect by looking back at 19th-century literature and its temperance advocates. The majority of the post focuses on Timothy Shay Arthur's novel Ten Nights in a Bar-room (a book I highly recommend). I can't imagine, however, that Arthur or his book is particularly well-known today so the popularity of this post leaves me baffled.

1. Dickinson: I'm nobody! Who are you? (December 10, 2010)
By far, the most visited post of the year was this one on the birthday of Emily Dickinson, including one of her most-quoted poems. I'm a little surprised that the single most popular post of the year 2011 was from back in 2010! I suspect much of the traffic was driven there by searches for images of Dickinson (there sure aren't many authenticated ones) — but I'll take it! And, to be clear, this post had nearly double the number of hits as the second place winner so there really was no contest here.

I am admittedly pleased that Edgar Allan Poe has been such a draw; he is, and has been, a specialty of mine. It still appears that the majority of traffic to the American Literary Blog comes from Google searches, rather than regular followers of the site. No matter — I'm happy to see people are benefiting one way or another (judging by some search terms, I'm glad I've been so helpful with homework assignments!). Someone recently asked how long I spend writing each post. In response, I think I can safely admit that each takes an average of an hour to research and then another 30 minutes to write the first draft. I'm not sure if that's impressive or not!

Finally, I have to admit that even I am surprised that I'll be starting my third year with this blog in just a few days — I hope you'll stick around!

No comments:

Post a Comment