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The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account Paperback – October 17, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert M. Adams was Professor of English (Emeritus) at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was the author of many books, including Ikon: John Milton and the Modern Critics; Strains of Discord; Proteus, His Lies, His Truth: Discussion of Literary Translation; The Land and Literature of England; and Shakespeare―The Four Romances. In addition to the Norton Critical Edition of Utopia (he was translator and editor of the First and Second Editions), Professor Adams was editor of five other Norton Critical Editions, including The Prince by Machiavelli, Candide by Voltaire, and The Praise of Folly and Other Writings by Erasmus, the texts of which he also translated. He was a founding editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
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Product Details

  • Series: Historical Account
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 17, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393303438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393303438
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Beginning with a physical description of the British Isles, touching lightly on the earliest cultures of man indigenous to the region, Adams's story really begins with the coming of the Germanic, fairhaired Celts sometime in the 1,000 years before Christ. Britain's literature begins with its myths and legends. This book is an entertaining outline of English history as the background of its literature.
About the legends of Ireland, for example, Adams writes, "There are a great many more stories than the 'Ulster cycle" of Celtic legend, and there is another entire cycle of primitive stories from the south of Ireland, dealing with Finn MacCool, his trusty band of Fenian comrades, and his son the warrior-poet Ossian. Readers of Yeats and Joyce will recognize, again and again, in the characters and episodes of ancient Irish legend, the origins of persons and events, as well as the point of hundreds of allusions, in these modern writers."
Adams does not pretend to write a comprehensive book without prejudice. "There are two long stories to tell," he writes, " and very little space to tell them, other elements of the background must be treated only intermittently...I make no apology for having introduced my own enthusiasms into the literary commentary." After all, it IS his book. He gets to choose what to say and how to say it. It's well that he doesn't apologize because his "enthusiasms" are what makes the book readable and delightful.
This isn't an anthology -- the reader will have to track down copies of works but there's a bibliography and references to writers and their publications are plentiful. He doesn't confine himself to just the well-known literary works, but offers examples of lesser-known works, as well.
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Format: Paperback
This is the best introduction to English history for American students of English literature. Adams is clearly a very gifted teacher. He conveys very difficult and complex historical issues with amazing brevity and surprisingly little bias.

The book is intended to serve as a propadeutic for students of literature and it is by far the best of its kind available. What Adams selects from history is designed to accompany the Norton Anthology. It is like reading a professor's series of notes for lectures but designed specifically to help the student who wants to think about particular literary pieces within historical contexts. Adams gives just enough historical fact to make the literature come alive. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to undergraduates and even grad students who need to refresh.

Most entertaining is Adams's sense of humor and the text is dotted with little places where the reader will laugh aloud. The footnotes are helpful and suggestive, the design of the chapters and their titles easily assist comprehension and a sense of sequence and order. Reading the book thoroughly and attentively will help any student develop context and hopefully write better papers. If you don't have this book and you are a student of English literature, find a way to get it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent overview of British history prior to 1950 or so. Think of it as a combination "British history for dummies" and detailed time-line of events and literature. Literature and history are undeniably intertwined in real life, and this book reflects that remarkably well. It does talk about literature in detail, but this book is probably better for history buffs or as a companion to a literature book.
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By A Customer on April 4, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Portions of this book are in my British Literature II book. The various things covered include medieval & modern coinage and titles for the peerage -- both chapters are very informative and well-written. Those two chapters alone make this a good buy for anyone who needs resources on Britain. Writers who place their fictional worlds in historic times and fantasy ought to find this a valuable investment.
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