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Short Oxford History of English Literature [Paperback]

Andrew Sanders
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

19 Aug 2004 Short Oxford History of
The Short Oxford History of English Literature is the most comprehensive and scholarly history of English literature on the market. It offers an introductory guide to the literature of the British Isles from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day in eleven chapters covering all the major periods of English literature chronologically. Professor Sanders provides detailed analysis of the major writers and their works and examines the impact of British literature on contemporary political, social and intellectual developments. This third edition has been revised and updated for a 21st century reader, incorporating discussion of a greater number of female and contemporary authors.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 3 edition (19 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199263388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199263387
  • Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 15.4 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"helpful guide ... reliable, well-informed and broad-minded commentary"--Times Literary Supplement"Sanders's volume aims to match the kind of comprehensiveness pioneered by Morley, Saintsbury and Legouis and Cazamian, though with closer attention to, and fuller quotation from, selected texts than the earlier historians would have been allowed. His way of handling difficult moments of historical transition is by means of an attractive eclecticism."--Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Andrew Sanders' research interests are centred on the Nineteenth-Century Novel and particularly on the work of Charles Dickens. He was the editor of the Dickensian from 1979-87 and is the author of Charles Dickens: Resurrectionist and The Spirit of New Age. He is the editor of the Oxford World's Classics editions of Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers, Thackeray's Barry Lyndon and Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays. His edition of Eliot's Romola was published by Penguin Classics.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every student's best friend! 28 Oct 2002
Format:Paperback
Andrew Sanders is Professor of English Literature at Durham University, so you'd hope he might know what he's talking about. Fortunately, he does. This book is a triumph of top-flight scholarship married to the kind of compulsive readability that most novelists can only dream sweatily about.
The big risk with "Shorter..." books like this is either that they're not "Shorter" at all, or that they take their abbreviated nature a bit too seriously and end up reading like a beach romance. Sanders has avoided these pitfalls by producing a book that's satisfyingly weighty and detailed, but which never veers off into full-on literati pretension. His treatment of Chaucer, for instance, is a dream - real appreciation and explanation of the poet's impact on English literature, mitigated by a lightness of touch and refreshing appreciation for the naughty bits that still cause teenagers up and down the land to snigger behind their hands. Great stuff.
Aside from the purely historical, Sanders has the originality to kick things off with an interesting debate on what constitutes the "Canon" of English Literature. This, as any Lit student or teacher of 16 year olds knows, is a thorny issue: "WHY do we have to learn Shakespeare?", "WHO SAYS this is so great?" etc etc. No assumptions are made, no diktats laid down. This same approach is used throughout: Sanders is lucid and enthusiastic about everything from Coleridge to Larkin without ever quite allowing himself the luxury of partiality.
Which is, of course, the exact and proper function of a book like this. It's digestible and fun, but also - and make no mistake about it - learned and scholarly. Anyone with even a passing interest in English Literature should read it immediately.
It's also a godsend for work-shy undergraduates. Take it from me - I would never have possed my degree without it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Beowulf to De Bernieres 16 Aug 2011
By J C E Hitchcock TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
At over 700 pages this book is not particularly "short", but the adjective is needed to distinguish it from the multi-volume "Oxford History of English Literature". The word "English" might also need some qualification, as Scottish, Welsh and Irish writers are also included, provided that they wrote in the English language, as are some foreign-born writers. (For these purposes, Scots is regarded as an English dialect, so Dunbar, Henryson and Burns are in). This is doubtless the right approach. A "history of English literature" which omitted the likes of Walter Scott, Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Joseph Conrad in the interests of strict geographical accuracy would be a deficient one, and "The Short Oxford History of British and Irish Literature Written in English" would be an unwieldy title. The most surprising omission is perhaps Henry James, who has always struck me as being as much a naturalised Englishman as Conrad.

The history of Eng. Lit. has been described as "From Beowulf to Virginia Woolf", although as Woolf has now been dead for seventy years we should perhaps now speak of "From Beowulf to Louis de Bernieres", he being the last writer to be mentioned in the text. The book starts off with an interesting discussion of the gradual development of a "canon" of English literature and the way in which literary reputations have grown or diminished over the centuries. There then follow ten sections, each dealing with the literature of a particular period, in chronological order from Anglo-Saxon beginnings to post-1945 literature.

One criticism I would have would be that in latter sections Andrew Sanders displays a bias towards "literary" fiction rather than what might be called "genre" fiction.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history; could have used a bit more primary exceprts. 21 Sep 2008
By Sam M. Tannenbaum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not surprisingly, Sanders has crafted an excellent historical survey of the development and nuances of English lit. It's well worth reading to gain a better understanding of why and how English lit has looked at various times in history.

About the only thing I would have liked to see was a little more in the way of excerpts from notables here. Sanders does include some, and I know we can't have everything we'd like in a history that has the word 'shorter' in the title; I guess that's not so much a complaint as just a lament about concise surveys in general... and now I'm off-topic. anyhow, this is superbly constructed and solidly written, and I enjoyed myself.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Beowulf to De Bernieres 16 Aug 2011
By J C E Hitchcock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
At over 700 pages this book is not particularly "short", but the adjective is needed to distinguish it from the multi-volume "Oxford History of English Literature". The word "English" might also need some qualification, as Scottish, Welsh and Irish writers are also included, provided that they wrote in the English language, as are some foreign-born writers. (For these purposes, Scots is regarded as an English dialect, so Dunbar, Henryson and Burns are in). This is doubtless the right approach. A "history of English literature" which omitted the likes of Walter Scott, Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Joseph Conrad in the interests of strict geographical accuracy would be a deficient one, and "The Short Oxford History of British and Irish Literature Written in English" would be an unwieldy title. The most surprising omission is perhaps Henry James, who has always struck me as being as much a naturalised Englishman as Conrad.

The history of Eng. Lit. has been described as "From Beowulf to Virginia Woolf", although as Woolf has now been dead for seventy years we should perhaps now speak of "From Beowulf to Louis de Bernieres", he being the last writer to be mentioned in the text. The book starts off with an interesting discussion of the gradual development of a "canon" of English literature and the way in which literary reputations have grown or diminished over the centuries. There then follow ten sections, each dealing with the literature of a particular period, in chronological order from Anglo-Saxon beginnings to post-1945 literature.

One criticism I would have would be that in latter sections Andrew Sanders displays a bias towards "literary" fiction rather than what might be called "genre" fiction. There is very little about such genres as children's literature, crime fiction, horror, adventure, science-fiction or romance. Certainly, much of the work produced in these areas has always been ephemeral, but I would have welcomed a greater recognition of the fact that some genre writers have gone on to achieve classic status in their own right. Conan Doyle, for example, is passed over in a few lines, M R James is mentioned only once as an influence on the modern novelist Charles Palliser, Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie are both dismissed in a single sentence and Daphne du Maurier, Arthur C. Clarke and Rider Haggard not mentioned at all. Sanders pays more attention to H G Wells, but treats him mostly as the author of social-realist novels like "Kipps" rather than of pioneering science-fiction classics like "The War of the Worlds".

The book does, however, also have its virtues. It is generally easy to read (something not always true of literary histories) and generally objective (ditto). There is no obvious ideological agenda and no attempt to view the entire history of English literature from a single political or aesthetic viewpoint. With the exception of genre fiction mentioned above, it is also highly inclusive. Although, generally speaking, more space is allotted to the well-known names, Sanders also makes room to mention many now-obscure figures (some of whom were far from obscure during their won times).

Arnold Bennett once said that a whole library could be filled with books which "every educated person" was supposed to have read but which he personally had not. Reading Sanders's magnum opus, I was reminded of this quote and of how it applies to me even more forcibly than it did to Bennett. An even more impressive library could be filled with the works of those writers I had never heard of before picking up this volume.
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