Essential Articles: for the Study of English Augustan Backgrounds

Essential Articles: for the Study of English Augustan Backgrounds

Essential Articles: for the Study of English Augustan Backgrounds

Essential Articles: for the Study of English Augustan Backgrounds

Excerpt

Immense resources are by now available for literary study in England and America. Contributions to scholarship and criticism are numerous and often so valuable that a student preparing himself for a career in literary teaching and learning is embarrassed, not to say overwhelmed. Yet from the mass of commentary certain titles have emerged which seem to compel attention. If one offers a seminar for example, in one of the standard areas or periods of English literature, the syllabus will show year after year some items that cannot be omitted, things that every serious student should know. Beyond special editions, books and monographs, a number of articles in learned journals have tended to achieve classical status and are to be found invariably on shelves of reserved books. Apart from physical deterioration brought on by repeated use, the many volumes containing these pieces take up a great deal of space, and being withdrawn from general access they do not carry out their proper function in the library. A practical solution to this problem would clearly appeal to students, professors, and librarians.

Confining our selections to the so-called "learned journals" will exclude some of the best things on our subject -- things that demand the attention of all serious students. But if we do not try for an ideal coverage, we may still achieve our goal of utility and convenience. We propose then to choose from various periodicals some of the items essential to a given course of study. Hence the title Essential Articles whose meaning we would interpret literally, even though we cannot pretend that these are all the articles that everyone would consider "essential." For the background of the great English Augustans, Dryden, Swift and Pope, let us choose from the articles which time has sanctioned, and let us draw these into a single volume of convenient size. This offers a clear gain in simplicity and usefulness. The articles chosen make up a body of knowledge that cannot fail to be valuable, and they act as models of the kind of contribution to learning which we are training our graduate students to make themselves. If a similar concentration of articles is made for each of the major Augustans, we may conduct the study of these writers with greater confidence, knowing more fully the extent and kind of reading that we can take for granted.

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