Newest Review: ... to give an exhaustive list of the type of information covered in this section, so for the sake of brevity (and so that you will not lose... more
A fantastic literary reference book
The Oxford Companion to English Literature - Margaret Drabble
Member Name: cerys82
The Oxford Companion to English Literature - Margaret Drabble
Advantages: Masses of interesting information that is well presented
*This refers to the 2009 edition*
The Seventh edition of 'The Oxford Companion to English Literature was published in 2009 with this edition being edited by Diana Birch.
It is quite a hefty tome at 1216 pages (this information i had to get off Amazon as there are not page numbers.) and is hardback with a glossy looseleaf cover. Also the text contained within is quite small. It is intended as a reference to English literature (to clarify, literature written and published in the English language rather than literature from England.
There is a short (well by the standards of this book short) preface which talks about he value of the 'Companion' and explains some of the amendments and additions made to this edition as well as literature in a more modern context. There is then a list of the editors and contributors to the book along with their credentials, these are largely writers and academics from around the world. A list of abbreviations which will be used throughout the book are also listed.
This then leads into a series of essays which bring the book right up to date; 'literary culture and the novel in the new millennium,' 'black British literature' and 'children's literature.' These are detailed but not overlong or inaccessible and point the reader not only to exemplar texts but also to secondary ones as well.
Then begins what could be turned as the encyclopaedia, and by far the largest, section of the book. It really would be possible to give an exhaustive list of the type of information covered in this section, so for the sake of brevity (and so that you will not lose patience with reading this review), i will give a list of examples of the types of things which have their own entries;
Prominent theatre, authors, playwrights, literary and critical terms, major literary works, definitions of significant job roles within the literary industry, genres, journalistic terms, poetry terms, writers from the classical period, monarchs with literary experience or influence, grammatical terms, genres, major plays, major poetical works, literary journals both modern and historic, figures of speech, literary movements, art movements,.
Obviously what is contained within these entries is dependent on what it is actually on, but expect to see biographies, key dates and texts listed, plot synopses, definitions, origins, references and historical information and context.
Following this are a number of appendices. The first of these is a chronology which lists major works of a particular year against major historical events of that time - including the deaths of dominant literary and public figures. Appendices 2 and 3 list poets and children's laureates respectively.
Appendix4 lists the recipients of major literary awards throughout history including the Nobel prize for literature, Pulitzer, Booker and TS Eliot prize for poetry.
The book ends with an 'index of new and heavily revised entries by contributors' .
What more can I say about this book but wow! The sheer breadth of information in this book is astounding. By embracing not only the strictest of literary terms and reference this really is a full bodied, well-rounded and informative read.
Amongst all of the other things that are impressive about this book are the way that they value modern literature alongside older 'classics' which means that is incredibly accessible.
The essays and entries are clearly, incredibly well thought-out and carefully considered. Obviously the entries themselves vary in length, but these strike the perfect balance between being detailed without being overly complex, expansive or downright dull and being informative and educative. There is a real sense here of knowledge being imparted and I personally refer to it often to explain abstract terms; that is expressions or genres that I have heard of but would struggle to define myself. I also like to reference it when I read a book which is deemed a 'classic' whether that be older or more modern, and i would like to know a bit more about the author than what the brief description within the book is able to offer me.
The sections which refer to cross referencing and abbreviations and actually aim to aid you negotiate your way through this book are really well thought out, and after a short while you may indeed find that you do not need to look at them at all.
Although, as mentioned previously, the text is small. The sections are presented in such a way that it is easy to find what you want. This is no mean feat with a book of this size containing the sheer amount and depth of information that this does.
As an English Literature graduate myself, it really does help me to dip back into the constant feeling of learning and exploration about the subject that I so love whilst helping me to clarify definitions and my own understanding of terms and genres. However, I would not go as far as to say that this is an academic text - this is far more accessible than that. It is in essence a reference book, but is not weighed down by the 'dryness' that many of these types of books are.
I would definitely go as far as to say that anybody with even the slightest interest in literature will find something worthwhile from this book and it deserves to sit on a lot of bookshelves and something that you will refer to frequently/dip in and out of as you please, or even as an incentive to explore different genres and authors.
At the price of around £20 (online) or even at its RRP I think that it represents great value for money as the fair mix of modern and older material that it contains means that you will have it in your bookshelf for many years, and not only that - it will remain useful for all of this time also.
In conclusion, I am incredibly pleased with this purchase. I cannot think of any real failings of it - it is immaculately researched, presented in an easy to navigate and accessible way and provides more information than you may possibly ever need. Highly recommended
Summary: A fantastic wealth of information
- Mick Jagger - Philip Norman
- What Fresh Lunacy is This? - Robert Sellers
- My Story - Tom Daley
- Round Mr Horne: The Life of Kenneth Horne - Barry Johnston
- Katherine the Queen - Linda Porter
- Where There Is Evil - Sandra Brown
- American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing - Lou Michel
- Ian Fleming - Andrew Lycett
- Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch - John Bayley
- Roy Keane: Captain Fantastic - Stafford Hildred