Reference Guide to Russian Literature

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9781884964107: Reference Guide to Russian Literature

First Published in 1998. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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Cornwell, professor of Russian and comparative literature at the University of Bristol, has assembled an impressive reference work for Russian literature. There are no entries for literary terms, concepts, or movements, although 13 introductory essays do "give coverage to most periods, topics, and genres of Russian literature." Authors included have been limited to Russians and non-Russians writing in Russian, all of whom are creative literary figures rather than critics, philosophers, or theorists. Names have been transliterated according to Library of Congress rules and are arranged alphabetically. A few anonymous works of literature are included, interfiled with authors by their English-language title. In choosing which writers to include, the editor professes a bias toward the nineteenth and twentieth centuries "and, to some extent, towards contemporary authors."

Each of the more than 250 author entries begins with brief biographical information and a wonderful bibliography of primary works, including English translations, arranged by date of publication and grouped by genre when appropriate. Citations to critical studies are also listed. Introductory essays about the authors are provided and are followed, in many cases, by critical assessments of selected individual works; almost 300 titles are covered. Essays for both authors and works are approximately 1,000 words long. All essays are signed by the scholars who wrote them. Often, the essays on individual titles have been written by different scholars, thereby allowing for a broader scholarly assessment of the writer and his or her works.

Preceding the introductory essays are alphabetical lists of the writers and works included, a chronological list of writers, a general reading list, a chronology of significant events, and a glossary. The volume concludes with a title index, followed by notes on the contributors.

Other English-language reference tools are available. The essays in the revised edition of The Cambridge History of Russian Literature (Cambridge, 1992) offer lengthier treatment of periods in Russian literary history. Mention of specific authors or works is part of a larger narrative and not provided in separate entries. In addition to entries for authors, Handbook of Russian Literature (Yale, 1985) includes literary concepts, movements, and figures important in the history of Russian literature who are not creative literary writers themselves. It does not have separate entries for literary works. The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet Literature (Academic International Press, 1977^-), while not yet complete, casts its net far and wide to include the literary output of the former Soviet Union, treating non-Russian authors writing in languages other than Russian. Finally, Dictionary of Russian Women Writers (Greenwood, 1994) limits its coverage to women.

In addition to covering writers, such as the poet Gennaai Aigi, not found elsewhere, the chief contribution of Reference Guide to Russian Literature is the inclusion of critical essays on specific titles. These provide the reader with in-depth analysis not usually found in literary reference works. Of course, no single reference work can include everything; ownership of several of the titles mentioned in this review affords broader coverage. Highly recommended for large public and academic library collections, especially those supporting programs in Russian language and literature as well as comparative literature.

From Library Journal:

Cornwell's previous books on Russian literature (e.g., Essays on Vladimir Odoevs, Berghahn, 1997) make him well qualified to edit this fine guide to the major Russian writers. His team of 150 contributors, mostly from the British Isles and America, has prepared 1000-word entries for some 273 writers and 293 of their works. Critics, genres, and terms are excluded, as are works not written in Russian, e.g., Nabokov's Lolita. Author entries include telegraphic biographical sketches, detailed bibliographies of Russian- and English-language sources and critical studies, and, in many cases, 1000-word entries for specific novels, plays, and stories. There are alphabetical and chronological lists, 13 introductory essays on various aspects of Russian literature, and a Russian/English title index. The Handbook to Russian Literature (LJ 6/1/85) is more comprehensive than this new guide, which is, however, much more detailed in its coverage of writers and their works. Both books belong in every library that supports Russian literature studies.?Peter A. Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mt. Pleasant, MI
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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