Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A History of English Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A History of English Literature

Article excerpt

Michael Alexander, A History of English Literature, Macmillan Foundations (Basingstoke: Palgrave [Macmillan] Press, 2000). xii + 387 pp.; numerous illustrations. ISBN 0333-67227-6. L12.99 (p/b). It is a brave man in these days of specialization who writes a history of English literature, but there is a real need for a single narrative overview for students and others who have only the haziest idea as to whether Milton came before or after Chaucer, or whether there is any difference between blank verse and free verse. Michael Alexander is unashamed about believing in quality, and in giving most attention to canonical works; but he also manages to pack in an amazing amount of information, about manuscript and print culture, religious change, literary and poetic form, translation and globalization, and shifts in readership. Major works are represented by a brief summary and a famous or telling extract (in translation for most of the Old English, and all excellently chosen); a large number of minor figures are given a mention within an explanatory context. …

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