The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Fifth Edition

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9780198661306: The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Fifth Edition

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.

Standard Features:
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

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About the Author:


About the Editor:
Margaret Drabble is one of Britain's leading novelists, the author of numerous works, including Jerusalem the Golden, The Needle's Eye, The Middle Ground, and the trilogy of novels The Radiant Way, A Natural Curiosity, and The Gates of Ivory.

From Booklist:

The publication of the first Oxford Companion to English Literature (OCEL) in 1932 marked the beginning of the Oxford Companion series. Drabble, the noted British novelist and biographer, was responsible for the substantially revised fifth edition, published in 1985, and she also coedited the 1987 abridged version, The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature, which contained some additions and corrections to the parent volume.

In this revision of the fifth edition, Drabble has added 59 new entries on contemporary writers; updated previous entries on twentieth-century authors to reflect new publications, deaths, and other events; and corrected many of the errors noted by reviewers of the 1985 volume. Moreover, she has dropped the three appendixes relating to censorship, copyright, and the calendar and inserted in their place an extensive chronological chart tracing English literature from Anglo-Saxon times through 1994, a list of British poets laureate, and lists of recipients of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Booker prizes and the Carnegie Medal. Interestingly, a number of articles that were added to the concise version (e.g., Foreign Influences, Parody) do not appear in this revision.

Whereas the fifth edition excluded authors born after 1939, Drabble obviously has now abandoned this policy since the subjects of many of the new entries (e.g., Martin Amis, Penelope Lively, Salman Rushdie) were born after 1940. In addition, she has expanded coverage of English-language writers outside Great Britain by adding such figures as Peter Carey, Robertson Davies, Janet Frame, and Toni Morrison. Her continued exclusion of a writer of the prominence of Eudora Welty is difficult to understand, particularly in light of the lengthy new article on Gore Vidal. In most cases, articles on living authors have been revised through 1994, and in some instances, entries note even 1995 publications, such as Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled.

A few other articles also have been updated (e.g., the article on The Oxford English Dictionary now mentions the second edition and the CD-ROM version, and the entry for the Listener notes its cessation in 1991). However, some other entries also could use revision. For instance, Cambridge University Press indicates that "a history of American literature is planned," when, in fact, two volumes have already been published. Also, references from Calendar and Censorship to the now non-existent appendixes have not been deleted.

With more than 9,000 entries, the OCEL is a veritable cornucopia of information pertaining to British literature. While it includes a number of entries on major Commonwealth, European, and American authors, its primary focus continues to be the literature and culture of the British Isles. In this regard, it is significantly different from the Cambridge Guide to Literature in English [RBB Ap 1 94], which has considerably fewer entries but offers better coverage of the English-language literatures of Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S. However, the OCEL treats many more minor British authors and their works, individuals who have influenced English literature, and literary characters and allusions. Although the overlap between these two works is substantial, the differences are sufficient that most libraries will want both volumes.

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