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The Oxford Companion to English Literature 5 Rev Sub Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198662211
ISBN-10: 0198662211
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—This revision of the sixth edition adds material but not pages. The chronology, awards lists, and entries include works published through 2005, but entries from the previous edition have not been revised; the last case of Internet censorship cited is from 1999. Of the 16 two-page essays on various genres, only 2 have been given slight alterations ("Children's Literature" has lost its condescending conclusion). This edition contains more information on female and ethnically diverse writers. There are some omissions; for example, Alan Furst is left out of the "Spy Fiction" essay, and Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) earns only one sentence, in "Irish playwrights, new." "Gay and lesbian literature," which is no longer a separate essay, fails to mention several significant works, though they are treated elsewhere. Altogether absent from the book are authors such as W. G. Sebald, David Mitchell, and Ismail Kadare. Some choices are puzzling: Denise Levertov has twice Richard Wilbur's space; readers are told how to pronounce "Carew," but not "Bewick" (or Coetzee, Milosz, etc.). Flashes of wit-on "horror": "for every King there are a dozen or more knaves"-and verve ("Lads' literature"), leaven the learning. This is still the title to heft if you need elegant plot summaries, or help with anaphora, isocolon, and their ilk. However, for most purposes the previous edition still suffices.—Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 5 Rev Sub edition (November 2, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198662211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198662211
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,350,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Margaret Drabble is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. She has written biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson, and she is the editor of the fifth and sixth editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 18, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is one book I turn to over and over again. My copy is well worn and much loved. If I could have only one reference book, this would be it. You will wonder what you did before you had this book! A must for lovers of literature
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most practical reference books in my home library. I turn to it again and again for plot summaries and information about authors. I also find it useful for pre- (and post-) theater reading. And of course it's a real boon for solving the Sunday Times crossword puzzle.
A must-have for anyone who considers themself a reader.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on August 22, 1998
Format: Hardcover
As a teacher of Survey of British Literature (both halves), I rely on this work and refer to it regularly in class. It is invaluable for retrieving bits of forgotten lore, for putting authors and subjects into perspective, and for reminding readers of connections. No student of British Literature--whether instructor or traditional student--should be without it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Hebbron on February 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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!
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By W Beaufort-Brantley on January 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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