Yvor Winters clearly saw great value in making lists of the greatest literature, though he did not make it sufficiently clear what he was trying to accomplish with these lists. Most writers who study or write about his criticism — almost all academics of one sort of another — soft-pedal his lists, claiming with some embarrassment that they are made up of mere "favorites" of his (in the hope, I assume, that that will help make Winters a little more palatable). But I agree with Winters, as I understand him, that it's very important to make lists of the best, however much list-making has become trivialized in the past 40 or 50 years, however close it is coming to fatuity with all these books about the 500 or 1001 books one should read or movies one should see, or restaurants to hurry to, or theme parks to visit (and so on). Is my judgment that lists are important to the study of Winters related to this phenomenon? After all, I loved the Guiness Books when I was a kid (which came about at roughly the same time Winters was making his lists). It's an interesting matter to contemplate.
Tonkin opines that the current pop-culture (low-cult?) mania for making lists is a "dream of reason," the hunger to make order out of chaos. That could have been the purpose of the lists Winters made — and of those I have been making as well. But maybe it's much more than a dream, but a just application of reason in a world of numberless (and growing) ideas and opinions and positions on matters of every sort to say what we think is greatest and on what grounds we make our claim.