The Oxford Companion to English Literature

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9780198662211: The Oxford Companion to English Literature

When the fifth edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature appeared, The New York Times Book Review, in a front-page review, hailed it as "a wonderful, infuriating, amusing, and informative war horse of a book" and "a source of real delight," adding "No wonder the book is, as Miss Drabble says, 'much loved'." Now, Margaret Drabble has updated the fifth edition, adding sixty completely new entries and revising the entries on contemporary writers.
Readers will find many new faces here. Drabble has introduced dozens of contemporary novelists, poets, and other literary figures, including Martin Amis, Wendy Cope, Salman Rushdie, David Hare, P.D. James, Paul Theroux, A.N. Wilson, Anita Brookner, J.M. Coetzee, Robertson Davies, Thomas Keneally, David Malouf, Toni Morrison, and Gore Vidal. There are also new appendices listing winners of major literary prizes--including the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Booker Prize--and a full chronology spanning nearly a thousand years of English literature, from Beowulf to the present day. Of course, the Companion continues to offer unmatched coverage of English literature, from its classical roots (with entries on Homer, Plato, Virgil, and Catullus) to its European influences (from Rabelais and Goethe to Cervantes, Schiller, and Baudelaire). The curious will find information on fictional characters, the plots of major works, literary and artistic movements, critical terms and theory, and much more.
Comprehensive, authoritative, and up to date, this revised edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature offers the most complete reference guide to our marvelous literary heritage.

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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. Her most recent publication is a biography of Angus Wilson.

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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