Encyclopedia of Literature

Encyclopedia of Literature

Encyclopedia of Literature

Encyclopedia of Literature


This is the first collection of surveys of the literatures of the world. Not counting minor dialects, men have spoken in some three thousand tongues. The first recorded literature comes to us across perhaps five thousand years.

Of the thousand American Indian tongues, some sixty are included in the article on North American native literature; through these speak the most cultured groups. The same is true for the five hundred tongues of the Africans, and the seven hundred of Polynesia. For folklore has been deemed within the scope of this volume -- sometimes in separate articles, sometimes within the main survey.

Certain languages have overleapt national bounds. Thus Latin was long the language of culture in Western Europe. Arabic, from the seventh to the fifteenth century -- by virtue of conquest and of religion (it being the language of the Koran) -- was the lingua franca of the Near East. The several Slavic literatures, in varying measure, intertwine. For analogous considerations, a survey of Christian hymnody is included: though in most national surveys it would receive scant attention, the influence of hymnody has in many lands bulked large.

To ensure fullest presentation of a field, the reader should follow the asterisks (*) to the individual items at the end of the volume.

All the material here presented has been especially written for this encyclopedia. A few fields have never been surveyed at all, in any language, before this volume. In others, the present writers have made pioneer research. Many of the literatures have not been this fully presented in English before; some of the less familiar ones have been granted extra space.

The editor has made no Procrustean attempt to shape the articles; each -- insofar as space permits -- has been left largely in the author's style. The treatments therefore vary as the literatures themselves suggest. Titles of works not in English are given as seems in each case most appropriate. The inevitable subjectivity of each writer has been tempered by the suggestions of other scholars; these consultants have here my hearty thanks.

Thanks are extended also to the Legations at Washington that generously aided in the securing of native authorities to present the literature of their lands.

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