Encyclopedia of English Studies and Language Arts

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9780590492683: Encyclopedia of English Studies and Language Arts

Book by Purves, Alan C.

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From Booklist:

A project of the National Council of Teachers of English, this work focuses on the multifaceted issues related to the study and teaching of English at all levels of education. Its entries explore topics pertaining to 10 major areas: language, literature, composition, reading, drama, media, technology, curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment. Purves, director of the Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy at the State University of New York, Albany, indicates in his introduction that the encyclopedia intends to "explain English teaching to the world at large, particularly to administrators of schools, community colleges, and universities."

Ranging in length from 300 to 3,000 words, the approximately 700 signed entries were written by almost 600 contributors representing a wide range of academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Most articles are followed by a brief bibliography, and many provide cross-references to related entries. Articles are arranged alphabetically by title, but an inconsistent practice of ignoring prepositions, conjunctions, and articles within titles in determining alphabetical sequence can be confusing. For example, Writing Curricula comes before Writing across the Curriculum, but Writing in the Disciplines follows Writing Evaluation.

Entries cover a broad range of topics, including specific programs or projects (America 2000, Plowden Report), practical aspects of teaching (Marking and Grading, Writing Conferences), concepts and issues (Deconstruction, Multicultural Education), and computer applications (Artificial Intelligence, Hypertext/Hypermedia). In addition, a number of articles provide useful overviews of literature by a specific group or for a particular audience (e.g., Canadian Literature in English, Young Adult Literature). In general, the articles are well written and accessible to the nonspecialist. When NCTE has adopted a policy relevant to a topic, that policy is noted in the entry. Occasionally, tables, diagrams, or other black-and-white graphics are used to supplement the text.

Unfortunately, this set lacks several important features necessary for effective access. Most significantly, it does not have a detailed subject index or an overall table of contents. The only index is a topical one that simply groups article titles under 11 broad categories, such as Learning and Reading. Moreover, the index cites only a page number, not the volume number, and neither the spines nor the title pages of the volumes indicate the part of the alphabet covered or the inclusive pagination within each volume. Without adequate indexing, the wording of article titles is particularly crucial since this becomes the principal finding point. Therefore, one wonders how many users interested in the history of the teaching of writing will locate the entry Nineteenth-Century Writing Instruction, and if anyone will ever find the extremely useful annotated bibliography of relevant journals under the entry Professional Publications in the English Language Arts. The editor himself indirectly acknowledges these shortcomings by encouraging users to skim the article titles, the topical index, and the texts of articles in order to locate the information or terms they are seeking.

Additionally, the set bears evidence of careless editing. A number of blind see also references occur (e.g., Adult Literacy Testing refers to the nonexistent Concepts of Literacy, and Dialect in Literature refers to the nonexistent American English). Moreover, see also references sometimes lead only to a see reference. For example, a user referred to Standardized Tests from the entry Test Score Decline will not find an article but a see reference to other entries. In addition, some page headers are incorrect, and an initially confusing mishmash of incomplete articles on pages 884-87, upon further examination, turns out to be caused by a reversal of page numbers: the text for page 885 is on page 886 and vice versa. Furthermore, the volumes are not bound to withstand heavy use. Early in the review process the cover of one of the volumes came loose from the spine.

Many of the articles in this set (e.g., Ethnic Studies, Television and Children, Test Bias) address concerns that have relevance to the entire field of education, not just the teaching of English language and literature. Thus, this work could be used to supplement related entries in the now-dated Encyclopedia of Education (Macmillan, 1971) as well as to complement the material in Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts (Macmillan, 1991).

Although the information in this encyclopedia will be valuable for teachers, librarians, and educational administrators at all levels and for college students who are training to be teachers, potential users will almost assuredly be hampered by the lack of a well-conceived subject index and the other inadequacies mentioned above.

From Library Journal:

The aim of this set is to "explain English [teaching] to the world at large, particularly to administrators" at all educational levels. Though its entries are authoritative and readable, the set is frustrating to use. The topical index is divided into 11 sections, each of which is subarranged alphabetically. The only way to find information on Noam Chomsky, for example, is to guess where he might be mentioned (in the "Linguistics" article of the "Language" section). There are See Also references, but cross references are often eschewed since, say the editors, "browsing has its own rewards." Though entries include bibliographies, many citations within articles are incomplete; it can be hard to determine, for instance, in which journal an article appears. Given the narrow focus, only larger libraries will need to consider.
Peter Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mich.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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