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English Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 7 Oct 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (7 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199569266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199569267
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 105,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works and the author of many books, including most recently John Clare: A Biography, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

Product Description

Review

While exploring towering works, Bate remins us that literature can also be terrific fun. (Christopher Hirst. The Independent)

About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick. Among his many books are John Clare: A Biography (Farrar Straus Giroux), which won Britain's two oldest literary prizes, the Hawthomden and the James Tait Black, a best-selling book on Shakespeare for the general reader, The Genius of Shakespeare (Picador, UK and OUP, USA), and a major intellectual biography of Shakespeare in the cultural context of the Elizabethan Age (The Soul of the Age. He is also chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works (Macmillan UK/Random House Modern Library USA).

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jon Chambers TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's a lot of ground to cover in Eng Lit: 'sweeping across two millennia and every literary genre', as the inside flap promises. For a while, it seems as though the need to cram everything in might be the book's undoing - even though at 167pp it's one of the longer Shorts. Such worries are premature: analysis comfortably outweighs potted literary history.

For me, it isn't the chapter on Shakespeare (Bate's specialism) that forms the book's highlight, but the last two, on the novel and on multicultural English. In the first of these, the development of the 'stream of consciousness' in such novels as Ulysses and Orlando is considered in relation to recent work in brain science. As with The Genius of Shakespeare, therefore, Bate shows a willingness to look beyond the confines of his own subject in order to understand it more fully. And in his concluding chapter, entitled The Englishness of English Literature?, Bate examines a diversity that has characterised the literature of these islands since even the pre-modern, pre-mass immigration era, with its sharp political, religious and social divisions.

Witty as well as thought-provoking, the book is itself literary (I noted homage to EM Forster and Blake, and doubtless missed other instances) in a way that will probably appeal to those who are 'in' without annoying those who aren't. It is also wide-ranging, up to date and perceptive (Coleridge and Hazlitt are seen as the originators of opposing 'formalist' and 'historicist' schools of criticism). With so much to commend it, we might even excuse its rather sniffy attitude to the on-line review - the 'free-for-all ... in which everyone is a critic'. Bate does, after all, concede that such electronic chat may just be an extension of the democratisation that began in the C18 coffee house.

Ultimately, therefore, one of the more inspired and inspiring VSIs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I studied Eng Lit at Oxford in the late 80s. I was asked to recommend some Classics for a teenager who is getting interested in reading. I bought this book to give myself a refresher - as my recent reading has been mainly Scandi crime and literary best-sellers. It really fit the bill and reminded me of some of the wonderful books and poetry I have read over the years - plus some of the gaps. I've now ordered some new translations of Old English lit - something I thought I would not go back to. The book is obviously a subjective view of literature, but it is so much more than a chronological description. Bate approaches it from the angle of posing interesting questions about literature. Really enjoyed it, thank you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DannyMc on 27 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This one really does do what it says on the cover. The scope is broad, broader than I expected. The book is structured by taking different types of literature (play poem or novel for example) and meandering through the history of the form with wonderful insights to the context of different writers. The opening chapter on children's literature was particularly surprising a rewarding.

I'm not sure how big the audience that would value this book is. It is perfect for me; someone who loves books but has never really taken any academic interest in them. For some it may not be deep enough, but then it is meant to be a short introduction.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kate Bradley on 5 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose the problem with any introduction to English Literature would be that anyone who has read anything in English has already had a limited introduction to the subject. When no reader is starting at a truly beginner level, it is difficult to know what should be included in an introduction. Added to this, there are hundreds of important things to point out about English Lit that simply wouldn't fit in a 200 page guide. Consequently, the book covers the history of English literature in a rather vague way, not providing much original analysis.

For students of literature, I would suggest that a book such as 'Doing English' provides more of an insight into the debates surrounding the study of the subject, and more thorough guides to particular periods and aspects of literature might be useful too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Fun Introduction to English Literature 10 Dec. 2010
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
English literature is one of the most prolific and well known of all national literary traditions. Inclusion of Shakespeare alone tends to intimidate all other literary accomplishment, English or otherwise. Everyone who has been brought up in an English speaking country is already probably somewhat familiar with many of the most famous works of English literature, so reading a very short introduction on this subject seems superfluous at best. Nonetheless Jonathan Bate, the author of this small book, manages to make the subject of his inquiry fresh and interesting, so even if you think you know everything there could be said in such a small format you may benefit from reading this short introduction. Bete's writing style is extremely engaging and literary, and this alone makes this a very interesting and fun book to read. You are likely to discover new interesting tidbits about Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Blake, Wordsworth, and many other literary giants. You will also discover how truly protean English literature is, and how England, long before the term was applied to the United States, was a veritable melting pot of various cultures and literary traditions. Bate makes his point particularly forcefully when showing that out of a dozen or so "English" literature Nobel Prize laureates, only two can be considered "fully" English in the sense that they were born and raised in England to English parents. I tend not to put too much stock in the fascination with "multiculturalism," but it's hard to argue that this diversity of the individual personal experiences has not greatly enriched English literature, as well as all literature written in English language.

This short book is very well written and it will probably inspire you to reach for a classic or two of English literature right after you finish reading it. That is probably the greatest accomplishment that any one of these very short introductions can aspire for - to inspire the reader to learn even more about its subject.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Contextualising text 1 Oct. 2011
By Jon Chambers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There's a lot of ground to cover in Eng Lit: 'sweeping across two millennia and every literary genre', as the inside flap promises. For a while, it seems as though the need to cram everything in might be the book's undoing - even though at 167pp it's one of the longer Shorts. Such worries are premature: analysis comfortably outweighs potted literary history.

For me, it isn't the chapter on Shakespeare (Bate's specialism) that forms the book's highlight, but the last two, on the novel and on multicultural English. In the first of these, the development of the 'stream of consciousness' in such novels as Ulysses and Orlando is considered in relation to recent work in brain science. As with The Genius of Shakespeare, therefore, Bate shows a willingness to look beyond the confines of his own subject in order to understand it more fully. And in his concluding chapter, entitled The Englishness of English Literature?, Bate examines a diversity that has characterised the literature of the British Isles since even the pre-modern, pre-mass immigration era, with its sharp political, religious and social divisions.

Witty as well as thought-provoking, the book is itself literary (I noted homage to EM Forster and Blake, and doubtless missed other instances) in a way that will probably appeal to those who are 'in' without annoying those who aren't. It is also wide-ranging, up to date and perceptive (Coleridge and Hazlitt are seen as the originators of opposing 'formalist' and 'historicist' schools of criticism). With so much to commend it, we might even excuse its rather sniffy attitude to the on-line review - the 'free-for-all ... in which everyone is a critic'. Bate does, after all, concede that such electronic chat may just be an extension of the democratisation that began in the C18 coffee house.

Ultimately, therefore, one of the more inspired and inspiring VSIs.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Really good but too much if your interest is superficial 30 Jun. 2013
By Marcus V. Sinhoreto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I bought my interest was only to know more about English Literature and a little about its history. This book has everything about it but in a deep immersion. A very good book but not for casual readers.
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