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Sir Paul Harvey's original Oxford Companion to English Literaure, published in 1932, was the book that began Oxford's celebrated Companion series. In its various editions in the half-century since then, it has enjoyed an enormously faithful following and unflagging sales (over 400,000 to date). Now, for the Fifth Edition, the eminent novelist and biographer Margaret Drabble has put together the most substantial and significant revision in the book's distinguished history.
The Classic Guide to English Literary Culture
Here, thoroughly updated, is the standard reference work on English literature, both clasic and contemporary. The virtues established by Harvey are intact: the useful plot summaries, the separate entries on important fictional characters, the countless biographical articles on authors and other important figures in the world of letters, the lightness of touch that makes the book a pleasure to read. As ever, this is an essential book for libraries large and small, for students, for teachers, for everyone interested in English literature.
Revisions Deepen and Widen Book's Appeal
Drabble's revisions not only bring the volume up to date; they both deepen and widen its appeal. Topics once regarded as non-literary--detective stories, science fiction, children's literature, comic strips, for example--are now included, as are numerous foreign language authers who have become well-known in translation. There are also entries on composers who have adapted English texts to musical forms and articles on visual artists whose work has been touched by the English literary consciousness. The book covers all the important movements and critical theories (including the latest developments in Freudian and Marxist criticism and Saussurean linguistics and its successors). What is more, the entries on classic works--Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, The Faerie Queen, and many others--now incorporate the findings of the latest scholarship. In still another innovation, the entries now offer the reader a guide to turther study and research by referring to the relevant biographies, memoirs, critical studies, and standard scholarly editions of many of the important works. Also, the book's appendices on censorship, copyright, and the calendar have been updated, and an exhaustive cross-referencing system in the manner of the more recent Companiions has been adopted.
About the Editor:
Margaret Drabble's many books include The Middle Ground, The Realms of Gold, The Ice Age, Thank You All Very Much, and A Writer's Britain.
Among the many notable features distinguishing The Oxford Companion to English Literature are:
· Alphabetically arranged entries
· Entries on important individual works
· Author entries that include concise biographical information and cite their major works
· Many entries on historians, critics, philosophers, and booksellers
· Coverage of many American authors and of foreign language authors famous in translation
· Entries on non-literary figures famous in a literary context, from Penelope Rich to Ottoline Morrell
· Articles on literary societies, clubs, and coffee houses
· Definitions of literary and artistic movements, from Existentialism to the New Criticism, from Neo-classicism to Structuralism
· Entries on prizes, periodicals, newspapers, and literary agents
· Updated appendices on censorship, copyright, and the calendar
· Extensive system of internal cross references, redesigned in the manner of the more recent Companions
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Margaret Drabble is one of Britain's leading literary figures, the author of numerous novels, including A Natural Curiosity, The Gates of Ivory, and The Witch of Exmoor. She lives in London.
A staple in reference collections since it first appeared in 1932, The Oxford Companion to English Literature (OCEL) only improves with age. The eminent British writer Drabble assumed the editorship of this venerable work with the fifth edition, published in 1985, and she oversaw its two revisions, the first in 1995 and the second in 1998. Of the more than 7,000 entries in this sixth edition, approximately 660 are new. Many other entries have been revised and updated, while a sizable number (among them Cable, George Washington, Infernal Marriage, Mrs. Norris, Risorgimento, and Will's Coffee House) have been dropped. Approximately one-third of the new entries were authored by Drabble, and the others were contributed by a team of more than 140 noted writers and scholars (who are identified near the beginning of the volume); however, all entries remain unsigned.During her tenure as editor, Drabble has dropped the policy of excluding authors born since 1939, thus opening the door to broader coverage of contemporary writers. For example, new to this edition are entries for Pat Barker, Jim Crace, Roddy Doyle, Brian Friel, and Vikram Seth. Also appearing for the first time are a number of significant twentieth-century women authors who had previously been overlooked, including Zora Neale Hurston, Elizabeth Jolley, Angela Thirkell, and Eudora Welty. Among other new articles are Censorship, Gay and lesbian literature, Intertextuality, and New historicism. In addition, the volume includes 16 two-page survey articles, most of which provide historical overviews of particular genres and movements, for example, "Biography," "Gothic Fiction," and "Romanticism." Although 14 of these articles are essentially the same as when they were first introduced in the 1998 revision, "Metre" is a completely new essay, and "Structuralism and Post-Structuralism" replaces the earlier essay that focused only on structuralism. Following the dictionary portion of the work are a chronological chart, a list of British poets laureate, and lists of winners of four major literary prizes.Drabble is to be commended for the breath of fresh air that she continues to infuse into this compendium. It is obvious that she has made a concerted effort to represent more women and minorities and to reflect the ways in which literary criticism and publishing are changing. Unfortunately, however, some entries have escaped needed updating. For instance, the article on The Oxford English Dictionary does not mention the three-volume supplement to the second edition or the availability of the online version. Moreover, the chronology does not include any literary works published after 1998. Among a number of contemporary authors whose omissions are surprising are Nicola Barker, Thomas Kinsella, and Tim Winton. Furthermore, J. K. Rowling, author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter books, is not accorded an entry, nor is she mentioned in the survey articles on children's literature and fantasy fiction.These quibbles aside, the OCEL continues to be a valuable, reliable, and readable guide to the entire spectrum of English literature from its beginnings through the twentieth century. In light of its substantial number of new entries and revisions, most high-school, public, and academic libraries will want to purchase this new edition, even if they acquired the 1998 revision to the fifth edition. RBB
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