The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 1

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 1

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 1

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 1


This Encyclopedia is an indispensible reference guide to twentieth-century fiction in the English-language. With nearly 500 contributors and over 1 million words, it is the most comprehensive and authoritative reference guide to twentieth-century fiction in the English language.
  • Contains over 500 entries of 1000-3000 words written in lucid, jargon-free prose, by an international cast of leading scholars
  • Arranged in 3 volumes covering British and Irish Fiction, American Fiction, and World Fiction, with each volume edited by a leading scholar in the field
  • Entries cover major writers (such as Saul Bellow, Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, A.S Byatt, Samual Beckett, D.H. Lawrence, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, and Ngūgī Wa Thiong'o) and their key works
  • Covers the genres and sub-genres of fiction in English across the twentieth century (including crime fiction, sci fi, chick lit, the noir novel, and the avante garde novel) as well as the major movements, debates, and rubrics within the field (censorship, globalization, modernist fiction, fiction and the film industry, and the fiction of migration, Diaspora, and exile)


Salman Rushdie, that most “international” of novelists, has famously remarked that “the novel has never been a more international form.” This is particularly true of fiction written in the English language within the last several decades. Feroza Jussawalla and Reed Way Dasenbrock elaborate upon this point:

The single most important development
in literature written in English over the
past century has been its increasingly
international – indeed, global – nature.
Once the language of a few million people
on a small island on the edge of Europe,
English is now spoken and written on
every continent and is an important lan-
guage inside at least one-quarter of the
world’s one hundred sixty countries.
As English has become an important
international language, it has also become
an important international literary

It is no mystery why this shift occurred. World War II helped accelerate the break-up of the British Empire (and further rise of American prestige), and Britain’s abortive intervention in the Suez crisis of 1956 marked the decline of British imperial standing. If London dominated 25 percent of the earth’s surface at the turn of the nineteenth century, with control of nearly four million square miles, this dominance, in the three decades following World War II, would shrink to a tiny fraction of that figure. As one observer remarked, Britain’s “major historical experience” in the twentieth century, other than the two World Wars, was “the final flourishing, later decline and eventual loss of the Empire.”

Britain’s political empire – in Africa, South Asia, and the West Indies – may be gone, but its “linguistic empire” is stronger than ever. As Jussawalla & Dasenbrock observe, “The Sun may now have set on the British empire, but that empire, in establishing English as a language of trade, government, and education in that sizable part of the world ruled by the British, helped create what may be a more enduring ‘empire’ of the English language.” Rushdie casts this linguistic dominance in yet more favorable terms. While it is true that English is the global language as “a result of the physical colonization of a quarter of the globe by the British,” Rushdie eschews viewing this language as an unwanted imposition of formerly colonized peoples, instead regarding it as “a gift of the British colonizers,” a legacy that in any case “ceased to be the sole possession of the English some time ago.”

Rushdie’s point, coupled with the reality of a “globalized” world in which English-language authors on different continents so readily read and respond to each other’s works, provides the rationale for a major reference text such as The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction, which brings together the major English-language fiction, figures, debates, rubrics, and movements of the period from around the world. Novelists and short story writers are currently transcending geographical boundaries in their work; research tools are therefore called for which transcend these . . .

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