The World of Paperbacks

Contemporary Review, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

The World of Paperbacks


Literary titles dominate this issue's releases from OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS with three volumes from The Oxford English Literary History. The first, by Professor Christopher Baldick, is the tenth volume, The Modern Movement ([pounds sterling]18.99) which covers the years from 1910-1940. The writer argues that only the twentieth century could have produced the 'modernist movement', that is, a literature marked by 'a strange new sense of disconnection from the past'. He gives a balanced account and shows that far from dominating all writing in the period covered, modernism was but one stream among many, however much it was beloved by the literary elite. The next volume, the twelfth, is Prof. Randall Stevenson's The Last of England? ([pounds sterling]18.99). This covers the years 1960 to 2000 and shows how English literature, and writing in England, were affected by the 'loss of Empire' and the profound racial changes brought about by large-scale immigration from the New Commonwealth. The final volume, the thirteenth, covers the years 1948-2000, is The Internationalization of English Literature ([pounds sterling]17.99) by Prof. Bruce King and this centres on the writings of those immigrants who began coming to the UK in the late 1940s and their descendants. In Prof. King's view they have added a certain 'international' character to English literature. Also from O.U.P. we have A Short History of French Literature ([pounds sterling]13.99) by Sarah Kay, Terence Cave, and Malcolm Bowie which offers 'broad narratives of literary development' that will act as a general introduction to the 'extraordinarily fertile cultural terrain' that is French literature.

We also have a variety of new titles in the famous World's Classics series. The first is Thomas de Quincey's On Murder ([pounds sterling]6.99) edited and introduced by Prof. Robert Morrison. This is a collection of the author's essays on violence and murder, including unpublished fragments, which would have been part of his projected 'On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts' series. On a slightly less violent level we have: Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton ([pounds sterling]5.99), her fictional account of working class life in Manchester in the 1840s here introduced and beautifully edited by Shirley Foster; Edith Wharton's novel of life in New York's 'high society', The Age of Innocence ([pounds sterling]7.99), a story of a world that is both sophisticated and highly provincial which is introduced and edited by Prof Stephen Orgel; Willa Cather's My Antonia ([pounds sterling]7.99) first published in 1918 and here introduced and edited by Prof. Janet Sharistanian. In addition, the World's Classics' series also has a new translation of Cicero's Political Speeches ([pounds sterling]9.99) by Mr D.H. Berry who has already translated Cicero's Defence Speeches for this series. His aim is 'to preserve as much of Cicero's style and artistry as possible' and to keep the speaker's dynamism intact. The final new OWC release is William Paley's Natural Theology ([pounds sterling]8.99), the highly influential book first published in 1802 and here introduced and edited by Matthew D. Eddy and David Knight.

Finally, O.U.P.'s CLARENDON PRESS has brought out a revised edition of Wener Hullen's English Dictionaries, 800-1700: The Topical Tradition ([pounds sterling]29.95) in which Prof Hullen traces the arrangement of English dictionaries according to topics, as opposed to an alphabetical presentation, and gives readers a unique insight into the world of ideas in this period.

W.W. NORTON has long been famous for The Norton Anthology of English Literature and the company has recently issued a new edition, the eighth, in two volumes ([pounds sterling]29.99 per volume). This splendid collection, first published in 1962, has been a standard text in many US universities and schools. The editors have followed current academic fashion and widened the volumes' 'canon' to include English language works not written in the UK and works by non-English writers now living here. …

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