The HarperCollins Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature

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9780060198152: The HarperCollins Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature

A classic reference work originally published forty years ago, The Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature is an irresistable guide to nearly everything there is to know about American literature. The thousands of entries, contributed by more than 130 scholars, include biographies of novelists, playwrights, poets and critics, summaries of books and plays, descriptions of characters, definitions of literary terms and movements, and much more. Featuring hundreds of longer essays on broad topics of interest such as Native American Prose and Poetry, Jewish American Literature, Humor in the United States, and Motion Pictures, the REAL is an authoritative and engrossing-- and often quirky -- guide to American life and the canon in all its variety and vigor.

This new edition, the first since 1991, has added 300 new writers who have come to prominence in the last decade, from Amy Tan and E. Annie Proulx to Oscar Hijuelos, Paul Auster, David Guterson, and many more. Over 1300 existing entries have been revised and updated in light of recent scholarship.

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About the Author:

George Perkins is a professor at Eastern Michigan University and the author/editor of fifteen books on American literature, including the bestselling textbook The American Tradition in Literature.

Barbara Perkins has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Eastern Michigan University and has cowritten five books with her husband and others.

From Booklist:

Last published in 1991 as Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, this compendium focuses primarily on the U.S., although it also encompasses the literatures of Canada and Latin America. Its more than 6,000 entries include authors, filmmakers, songwriters, titles of literary works, characters, historical events, periodicals, groups and movements, and a variety of other topics. In addition, a number of lengthy articles provide broad overviews of the literary history of particular geographical areas, ethnic groups, and genres.

The most significant feature of this edition is the inclusion of 300 new entries for writers who have risen to fame in the last two decades. Among those added are Madison Smartt Bell, Charles Frazier, John Grisham, Tony Kushner, Frank McCourt, Jane Smiley, and Amy Tan. Editors George and Barbara Perkins have also authored several new general articles (Globalization of American literature and Hispanic-American literature), and they have updated more than 1,300 entries from the previous edition, primarily those on writers who remain active (e.g., Gayl Jones, Larry McMurtry, Bobbie Ann Mason) and overview articles, such as Afro-American literature and Drama in the United States: since 1960. An extensive search yielded only one new title entry--All the Pretty Horses--and no new entries for other categories of topics. Moreover, many lesser-known writers who appeared in the previous edition have been dropped, as have almost half of the entries for U.S. presidents and numerous titles (including Willa Cather's O Pioneers!).

Broader in geographic scope than The Oxford Companion to American Literature (6th ed., Oxford, 1995), the HarperCollins title also includes approximately 1,000 more entries, and its coverage of contemporary writers is more extensive. However, the paucity of new entries in categories other than biographical and survey articles creates an imbalance in the work as a whole because the last three decades are underrepresented by such types of entries as titles, characters, and events. Although its unevenness detracts somewhat from its usefulness, this encyclopedia continues to be a valuable source for high-school, public, and academic libraries. RBB
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

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