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The Oxford Companion to English Literature [Hardcover]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   1184
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.4" Width: 7" Height: 2.2"
Weight:   3.55 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 2, 2000
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0198662440  
EAN  9780198662440  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
When the Fifth Edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature appeared in 1985, it received a glowing front-page review in The New York Times Book Review, which praised it as "a wonderful, infuriating, amusing, and informative war horse of a book." Now comes the new Sixth Edition, thoroughly updated and greatly expanded by editor Margaret Drabble and a team of 140 distinguished contributors, who include Salmon Rushdie, Brian Aldiss, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ian Buruma, and Michael Holroyd.
Readers will find over 660 new entries, over a third of which were written by Drabble herself, including hundreds of new biographies (from Kathy Acker to Stefan Zweig) as well as new entries on genres, literary terms, critical schools, and much more. In total, the new edition offers over 7,000 alphabetically arranged entries, providing incomparable coverage of the classical works of English literature, and of European authors and works that have influenced the development of English literature. Its wide range of articles cover not only authors and their works, but also fictional characters, plot summaries, composers and artists, literary and artistic movements, historians, philosophers, and critics, as well as publishing history, literary societies, newspapers and periodicals, critical terms and theory. In addition, there are sixteen new feature essays covering everything from gay and lesbian literature to modernism and science fiction, plus a thousand-year chronology that sets key literary works in their historical context, and complete lists of poet laureates and literary prize winners.
Boasting a lightness of touch that makes the book a pleasure to read, the Sixth Edition is an indispensable volume for students, for teachers, and for everyone interested in English literature.

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More About Margaret Drabble

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! MARGARET DRABBLE is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.

Margaret Drabble currently resides in London. Margaret Drabble was born in 1939.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A handy if heavy friend!  Feb 16, 2005
A wonderful resource and superbly edited by Ms Drabble to not only meet the founding principles of this work (which first appeared in the 1930's) but also to consider the ever changing parimeters of what good and great literature is, a highly subjective notion at best.
The title almost does not do this work justice, it bestows it with a crusty old British acaedemic image. You almost imagine having to blow the dust off it before you can begin! But it is so much more rich and diverse than this and should not be avoided by those made nervous by it's title; it is not the untouchable work it sounds like it may be.
If literature is a love of yours, whether by author or genre, then you will find this brilliantly informative. Don't be put off by this being such an enormous book, it needs to be, it will become a dear and chubby friend in no time!
A worthy companion  Jul 11, 2003
The first 'Oxford Companion to English Literature' was published in 1932 under the editorial direction of Sir Paul Harvey (no relation the American radio commentator). Half a century and five editions later, this is still a standard, authoritative reference work necessary for scholars and interested non-experts alike.

Under the editorship of Margaret Drabble, author and biographer (known for 'The Witch of Exmoor' and the more recently published 'The Peppered Moth'), this volume remains faithful to Harvey's intention of placing English literature in its widest possible context while exploring the deep classical and continental connections that underpin much of the history.

How can literature be divorced from cultural context? Surely it cannot be -- hence the newest entries into the edition include topics that read as if they were taken from today's best-seller shelf:

- Anglo-Indian Literature
- Simon Armitage
- Kate Atkinson
- Louis de Bernieres
- Censorship

- Ben Elton
- Gay and lesbian literature
- Hypertext
- A. L. Kennedy
- Lad's literature
- Literature of science
- New Criticism
- New Irish Playwrights
- Carol Shields
- Travel writing

This sample listing of the latest entries is representative of the more established categories, in that the entries (encyclopedic in character) include Authors, Subjects, Titles, Events, Characters and Critical Theory. The entries are unsigned (an ever-controversial practice in reference works such as this) -- well over a hundred contributors assisted in this volume, including the likes of Matthew Sweet, Salman Rushdie, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Katherine Duncan-Jones, and Brian Vickers.

This volume serves the general reader well in that one may follow cross-reference trails through the text. Take, for instance, Aaron the Moor -- the reader will be directed to Titus Andronicus, to which one is directed to Shakespeare, and from there a host of other cross-references historical and modern. Under the entry of Gabriel Josipovici, one is led back the entries of Rabelais and Bellow, influences as well as objects of Josipovici's study.

The appendices are new features of this edition. The first appendix is a Chronology that lists the chronology of the production of English literature from c.1000 to 1999 side by side with major historical events in Britain and beyond, and the significant events in the lives of literary figures. Appendix 2 lists the Poets Laureate in chronological order, from 1619 (when the office unofficially began) to the present -- surprisingly, there have only been 21 (19 official). Appendix 3 lists major literary award winners: Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Library Association Carnegie Medalists, and Booker-McConnell Prize for Fiction. Obviously not all of these are British authors, but it helps to place British literature in the wider world context of the twentieth century (as all of these prizes are twentieth-century creations).

In addition to the encyclopedic entries, there are major essays scattered through the text. These include the following topics:

- Biography
- Black British Literature
- Children's Literature
- Detective Fiction
- Fantasy Fiction
- Ghost Stories
- Gothic Fiction
- Historical Fiction
- Metre
- Modernism
- Post-Colonial Literature
- Romanticism
- Science Fiction
- Spy Fiction
- Structuralism and Post-Structuralism

These essays include history and current development of the genre or topic, as well as bibliographic information for further research, which (regrettably) the smaller encyclopedic entries rarely have.

This is a terrific, one-volume reference that should serve well anyone with a need for quick and ready reference material. It should find a welcome home on the shelf of any avid reader, fan of literature and modern fiction, history, religion, or any devoted Anglophile.

A (Very Historical) Companion to English Literature  Jan 22, 2003
Disliking an Oxford Press book makes me feel like a heretic. The majority of their Companion books are superb, remarkably concise yet thorough works of scholarship. The English Companion is an unfortunate and surprising exception.

The entry for 'New Criticism' is an efficient example of the book's shortcomings. For one thing, there's a laundry list of authors, dates, and books but very little is said of the IDEAS that characterize New Criticism. The entries are generally hamstringed by a focus on the sociopolitical and historical aspects of writers and works. The effort is laudable but inappropriate and uneconomical for a reference work. In its most extreme form, the historical emphasis goes into bizarre detail about an author's upbringing -- is it really necessary that we know where an author went to grade school and when? Entries love to entertain tales of writers' deaths and and of their insignificant travellings. I often felt as though I were reading minibiographies.

One will also notice, in the case of 'New Criticism', the absence of any mention of the 'organic'. This is ridiculous and indicative of the book's lack of attention to concepts as such. There is a non-cross-referenced mention of 'organic' under Coleridge, yet even there it is only mentioned as one of his ideas, not in terms of what the theory tried to say. I would compare it to someone's asking, 'What does X mean?' This book's reply: 'X was one of so-and-so's ideas'. Too often, the response ends there. Literary theory entries are usually on the thin side, though the deconstruction essay is solid. However, even in the longest lit theory essays there is more of an emphasis on people and movements -- far less on ideas.

Along with the lack of depth (or conceptual emphasis), there's little sense of the overall significance of ideas, works or characters (ironic given the attempts at a social-historical approach): Caliban is mentioned in the Tempest entry, and even gets his own paragraph elsewhere, but there's nothing about his character as it's been re-elaborated and re-invented by a long tradition of English writers (Auden, Browning, Joyce, and Wilde for starters). There's nothing about Caliban's portrayal in that tradition, nor mention of Caliban's mirror, etc. Under 'hubris' (which is found, in turn, under a terse account of 'the Poetics'), there's nothing about Icarus, nor is there anything about hubris as a specific theme in so many works.

Speaking of hubris, it's baffling to me that Drabble's entry is longer than either Hill's or Heaney's. The general editor would have been better off focusing more of her energy on other writers: that expansive babbling space could have been put to stronger use had a more thorough background been given on either of those poets, among others.

Readers seeking to understand why an author alludes in his work to a character or poet will be little helped by nebulous terms like 'icily poised' or 'sensuously textured', which are more suggestive of gastronomic, rather than literary, criticism. To my mind a reference's primary function should be to offer a quick source of the 'essentials' of a book or of a writer's ideas, an understanding of which would illuminate one's reading of the alluding work. While I appreciate that entries shy away from 'this or that' critiques or strict (canonical) interpretations, giving lists of facts does an injustice to the works themselves and to the way these works have been interpreted by others. (Believe it or not, people CAN come to their own conclusions even after being introduced to an opinion.)

The book's scope is appropriate to literature, as literature tends to allude to so many disparate disciplines. But if one were truly trying to give an encyclopedic account of literature, the book would have to be much bigger. In this case, specialization suffers. I would have preferred a much more focused account of 'literature' as such; I'd then supplement this with other references focused, for example, on English history. One gets the sense that too many entries end up attenuated in this book.

On the positive side the plot summaries are strong and more nuanced, though many entries are badly written (full of odd, obscuring, convoluted syntax). Again, good editorship would have recognized this.

The book primarily succeeds as an enervated survey. Nevertheless, readers will occasionally happen upon some interesting, well-summarized topics.

I'm going to check out the Cambridgean counterpart to the Oxford Companion, and I'm hoping it will give a more in-depth account of ideas and themes. The other Oxford Companions are, however, truly amazing works and deserve a close look.

very good refrence  Sep 8, 1999
An excellent resource of information about English works of art
very good refrence  Sep 8, 1999
An excellent resource of information about English works of art

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