Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism

Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism

Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism

Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism

Synopsis

This Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive guide yet both to the nature and content of literature, and to literary criticism. In ninety essays by leading international critics and scholars, the volume covers both traditional topics such as literature and history, poetry, drama and the novel, and also newer topics such as the production and reception of literature. Current critical ideas are clearly and provocatively discussed, while the volume's arrangement reflects in a dynamic way the rich diversity of contemporary thinking about literature. Each essay seeks to provide the reader with a clear sense of the full significance of its subject as well as guidance on further reading. An essential work of reference, The Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism is a stimulating guide to the central preoccupations of contemporary critical thinking about literature. Special Features * Clearly written by scholars and critics of international standing for readers at all levels in many disciplines * In-depth essays covering all aspects, traditional and new, of literary studies past and present * Useful cross-references within the text, with full bibliographical references and suggestions for further reading * Single index of authors, terms, topics

Excerpt

The aims and intentions of Literature and Criticism are probably best described by an account of the project’s history. Our brief from the publisher was for a work of reference, covering the field of literary and critical activity now usually described as ‘English’ or ‘English Literature’. From the earliest stages of planning, however, we felt that what was needed went beyond a descriptive guide to authors and texts on conventional lines. The idea began to take shape of a work that acknowledged both the existence of texts and the surrounding structure of critical debate. We moved towards a notion of a reference work which not only covered English literature, but also dealt with how it has been discussed and how it is being discussed now.

Such a work could not, and should not, aim to be an objective guide. On the contrary, it was agreed that we should consciously set out to engage scholars and critics of different persuasions, with the prospect that their varying perspectives would be reflected in the essays. While subject areas were specified in general outline, authors were invited to question divisions and propose their own modifications. Attention was drawn to some of the implications of our scope (for instance, that essays would need to achieve a balance appropriate to their subject between ‘literature’ and ‘criticism’). We encouraged writers to address recent critical and scholarly issues in their field and to indicate where they felt new ground might be broken.

The Encyclopedia’s sections and an approximate order of subjects were drafted at an early stage, so that most contributors wrote with an awareness of the particular context in which their essays would be placed. As new ideas (and some gaps) came to our attention, a few additional titles were commissioned; some local changes in order were also made as opportunities for creating fresh currents and tensions between neighbouring essays became available. The rationale behind the structure, nevertheless, remains largely unchanged. The introductory ‘keynote’ essays in Section I, lay out the parameters of the debate, and propose issues which reverberate throughout the volume: what do we mean by literature now? is there a present role for criticism? how can we describe the complex and ever-changing relationship between these terms? Sections II-V, in external organization at least, reflect more traditional ways of thinking about ‘English’ as a subject. The essays in

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