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English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (Oxford History of English Literature) Unknown Binding – 1 Mar 1973

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New edition edition (Mar. 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198812981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198812982
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,168,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

Provides a comprehensive criticism of literature from late medieval Scottish poetry to the prose and poetry of the early Renaissance. Bibliogs.


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By RR Waller TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hope you are as lucky as I was when you buy this; I received mine at the appointed time and, imagine my pleasure on opening the long-searched for package to discover it was a first edition. Additionally, having been in the library of the Weston-Super-Mare Grammar School for Boys, it had not had a great deal of use!

BOOK 1 - Late Medieval
Close of the Middle Ages in Scotland
Close of the Middle Ages in England

BOOK 2 - "Drab"
Religious Controversy and Translation
Drab Age Verse
Drab and Traditional Verse

BOOK 3 - "Golden"
Sideny and Spencer
Prose in the "Golden" Period
Verse in the "Golden" Period

Epilogue: New Tendencies

"When I began this book, I had the idea of giving each author the space in proportion to the value I set on him; but I found it would not do." Lewis then goes on to outline some of the challenges to his authorship, e.g. even "bad books" require enough space to consider them, if only from the point of view of taste and setting the parameters by which to judge the "good books".

In these 1944 Clarke Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, Lewis shows himself to be a master of his craft right at home in the complexities of judging sixteenth century writers and, considering the length of the text, it is easy to understand why he omitted the drama!

Scholarly and lengthy with the real "feel" of the authoritative Oxford Don but, for those not lucky enough to attend the lectures, it is a good substitute.
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Format: Hardcover
The size and the price might keep you away, but if you have enjoyed CS Lewis's other works and you are keen on English Literature then this volume, which he spent a considerable amount of time to complete, will surprise you with its readability. I've enjoyed it very much indeed. I've included short excerpts on The Church History Blog, so you can sample a few portions there first if you like.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8f230fe4) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9059fb7c) out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: Changes of Title, Varying Contents. 21 Sept. 2005
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Unknown Binding
C.S. Lewis's "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama)," first published in 1954, was part of a multi-volume series, The Oxford History of English Literature, and perhaps its most distinguished contribution (but see below). It also doubled as an installment in the Clark Lectures series (for 1944), which contributes an additional subtitle in some listings.

For reasons not immediately apparent, Oxford University Press has reissued this book in a "New Version" as "Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century." As the same fate has overtaken E. K. Chambers on "English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages," probably the other outstanding book in the series, which is now called "Malory and Fifteenth-Century Drama, Lyrics, and Ballads," there seems to have been a policy of titular refurbishing of at least some of the volumes in the series (once known, in an unfortunate acronym, as the O.H.E.L.).

The current titles are accurate enough, although "Poetry and Prose" should have included a warning that Elizabethan drama was covered in a different volume. (Due to the facts of human biology, Lewis' book not unexpectedly covers a slightly longer period than either title indicates.) Still, the changes can cause confusion for anyone not aware of them; given the current prices, this may be more than a little annoying to some people. If you have one version, you probably don't need the other!

Lewis on the "Sixteenth Century" was the product of enormous labor, including actually reading a huge body of writing generally ignored in literary histories, or customarily treated without much firsthand knowledge. Acquaintances -- not all of them friends, or even especially sympathetic -- described Lewis spending his days doggedly reading sermons and polemics, minor poets and bad poets, over the course of years. (He came to refer to the effort by the "infernal" acronym for the series noted above.) The result is a treasury of first-hand information, and with it Lewis' often-witty summations. It is engaging reading, even for those who disagree with Lewis -- and he seemingly set out to overturn most critical orthodoxies established between about 1900 and 1950, as well as a few older ones.

For example, he treats Elizabethan literature as an extension of medieval culture. Humanism, in its period sense of concern for a classicizing Latin style, and the disparaging of the immediate past, is treated as an often-harmful interruption. This reverses a judgment that actually goes back to the period -- but a judgment originally made by self-styled Humanists themselves, of course. And he includes the literature of Lowland Scotland, often ignored, or treated as something apart.

"English Literature in the Sixteenth Century" also appeared as an Oxford paperback under the original title (1973), unfortunately without the bibliographic supplement in which Lewis discussed textual histories and modern editions, if any, of both the well-known and the more obscure English and Scots literature of the late fifteenth through early seventeenth centuries. This portion is, of course, half a century out of date, but Lewis' observations are still of value. Even without this section, the paperback is worthwhile, and may be a good, reasonably-priced, alternative, but anyone familiar with the original form may be disappointed.

Those interested in Lewis as a Christian apologist will find here his considered reflections on many of his predecessors, not all of them flattering, but his comments on doctrine are pretty strictly limited to explaining the issues debated. It may seem odd to see the Reformation through the lense of literary history, but Lewis avoids open advocacy, unlike his "Preface to 'Paradise Lost,'" in which (it seems to me) his concern that readers take Milton seriously tends to blend with a concern that they take seriously their own salvation.

Lewis was also a poet, novelist, and occasional short-story writer. Here he occasionally briefly retells a story, with his usual skill, but, except for some overlapping topics, connections to his own fiction are less obvious than in some of his writings on the Middle Ages. There is a section on the Scots poet Sir David Lyndsay (d. 1555), who provided the epigraph to Lewis' novel "That Hideous Strength" (1946). And, somewhere it includes, as others have noted also, a quotation with the words "Stygian puddle glum." They undoubtedly lurks somewhere behind both the Marshwiggle named Puddleglum and the visit to the Narnian Underlands in "The Silver Chair" (1953, written 1950), although Dante, Virgil (of course), and a host of others, are under contribution there as well.

I was under the impression, from my first reading of the book decades ago, that it was given as a quotation from Gavin Douglas' Scots translation of "The Aeneid" (1513; Lewis describes it with enthusiasm); but I have never been able to locate it in the appropriate section. A recent search of my old copy of the shorter paperback has revealed that it was indeed quoted from a translation, but as an example of bad one, and English, not Scots; of the dramas of Seneca, not Virgil. On page 256 (where I had marked it thirty years ago), "Tacitae Stygis" in "Hippolytus" (line 625), rather weakly rendered by the utterly obscure John Studley ("which cannot now be read without a smile").

Perhaps establishing just how much Lewis read, and with what close attention, no matter how dreary.

(Reposted from my "anonymous" review of September 10, 2003)
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d26839c) out of 5 stars Criticism. Pleasure. In the Same Sentence. 22 Mar. 2004
By Mennonite Medievalist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
One of the primary pleasures of reading literary criticism is to hear someone intelligent talk about books you both have read. This book, then, couldn't be better. Erudite, controversial, innovative--whether you approve of Lewis's opinions or not, they're always good reading. If you're like me, and haven't read many of the sixteenth-century works Lewis discusses, then this literary critical history will give you the related pleasure of hearing someone intelligent talk about . . . anything. Lewis could blow your mind and change your life if he wrote an essay on tying shoes; thankfully, he wrote instead on ideas underpinning the Western world.

In this volume, his work on poetry is especially good. Highlights include the stylistic acrobatics Lewis put himself through to avoid saying 100 times of Drab Age poetry: "I don't like it; you won't either; read something else." Cranky? Yes, but insightfully, entertainingly cranky. Then, when he actually turns proselytiser and suggests you read something--well, I'll admit this volume practically by itself has gotten me interested in early Scottish poetry and the great Elizabethans, not to mention equipped me (almost as an afterthought) with more prosodical knowledge than I received in any of my creative writing classes.

This book is good enough to read all by itself. If you have knowledge of the period, so much the better. Lewis has spoiled me as a literature grad student, permanently I hope; no other critic measures up to his combination of insight and memorable prose.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d643498) out of 5 stars English Literature in the Sixteenth Century 7 Feb. 1998
By David Graham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Unknown Binding
Whether you rate this a 10 or a 2 depends on your reading tastes. No doubt many people would find the topic uninteresting, and if the topic or the author are not subjects you enjoy, then don't bother to buy it. Not being a lit. buff myself, my attraction for the book was the author's commentary, with the goldmine of quotable material found therein. This is an impressive volume of literary history, and I doubt that anyone else could have done such a thorough job and still made the topic come to life with such vigorous exposition. Opinionated? You bet. That's part of what makes it enjoyable to read. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, you may want to contact Oxford University Press directly. As one of the twelve volumes constituting the "Oxford History of English Literature" series, they have continued to print it over the years.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9059f990) out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: A Glorious Prospect 14 Nov. 2012
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In response to Amazon software's failure to carry over reviews to other offerings of the same book, I'm reposting one of my older reviews with some changes. (I wrote it in 2003, and then expanded it in 2005). It may wind up elsewhere, thanks to the same software -- in which case I can only accept the dictates of Heaven....

C.S. Lewis's "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama)," was first published in 1954, as an installment in the Clark Lectures series (for 1944), which contributes an additional subtitle in some listings, but primarily as part of a multi-volume "Oxford History of English Literature." It is perhaps the most most distinguished contribution to latter (but see below). It certainly seems to have been its top seller, and was at one time available in paperback (see picture of cover). Instead of the usual solemn catalogue of dates, names, and received critical opinions, Lewis had delivered a witty, sometimes impassioned, re-assessment of the Golden Age of English literature -- a conventional phrase which he turned into a technical term for later Elizabethan "Golden Style."

Oh yes; he did include all those dates and names, and a lot of comments on what he thought was wrong with the received opinions of the past and present (that being roughly the 1930s).

Inevitably, the response from fellow academics was not a chorus of approval. But it is obvious that many of them read it with care, even if some of them did tend to take the little jokes and apparent paradoxes too seriously. For example a critic claimed to be puzzled that Lewis argued that a writer who claimed a retelling of a very old story as entirely his own invention, in the hope of increased sales for the publisher, would for the same reason misrepresent an original story as a translation. Lewis wasn't discussing plagiarism as a moral or a psychological issue, but illustrating responses to the new economics of publishing (instead of patronage) in a particular case (that of Thomas Lodge).

For reasons not immediately apparent, Oxford University Press reissued this book at the beginning of the 1990s in a "New Version" with the title "Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century." As the same fate has overtaken E. K. Chambers on "English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages," probably the other outstanding book in the series, which is now called "Malory and Fifteenth-Century Drama, Lyrics, and Ballads," there seems to have been a policy of titular refurbishing of at least some of the volumes in the series (once known, in an unfortunate acronym, as the O.H.E.L.).

The new titles are accurate, although "Poetry and Prose" should have included the old warning that Elizabethan drama was covered in a different volume. (Due to the facts of human biology, Lewis' book not unexpectedly covers a slightly longer period than either title indicates.) Still, the changes can cause confusion for anyone not aware of them; given the current prices, this may be more than a little annoying to some people. If you have one version, you probably don't need the other!

Lewis on the "Sixteenth Century" was the product of enormous labor, including actually reading a huge body of writing generally ignored in literary histories, or customarily treated without much firsthand knowledge. Acquaintances -- not all of them friends, or even especially sympathetic -- described Lewis spending his days doggedly reading sermons and polemics, minor poets and bad poets, over the course of years. (He came to refer to the effort by the "infernal" acronym for the series noted above.) The result is a treasury of first-hand information, and with it Lewis' often-idiosyncratic summations. It is engaging reading, even for those who frequently disagree with Lewis - and, as noted, he seemingly set out to overturn most critical orthodoxies established between about 1900 and 1940, as well as older ones.

For example, he treats Elizabethan literature as an extension of medieval culture. Humanism, in its period sense of concern for a classicizing Latin style, and the disparaging of the immediate past, is treated as an often-harmful interruption. This reverses a judgment that actually goes back to the period -- but a judgment originally made by self-styled Humanists themselves, of course. And he very much includes the literature of Lowland Scotland, often ignored, or treated as something apart.

When "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century" appeared as an Oxford paperback, under the original title, in 1973), it lacked the bibliographic supplement in which Lewis discussed textual histories and modern editions, if any, of both the well-known and the more obscure English and Scots literature of the late fifteenth through early seventeenth centuries. This portion is, of course, now over half a century out of date, but Lewis' observations are still of value. Even without this section, the paperback is worthwhile, and may be a good, reasonably-priced, alternative, but anyone familiar with the original form may be disappointed.

Those interested in Lewis as a Christian apologist will find here his considered reflections on many of his predecessors, not all of them flattering, but his comments on doctrine are pretty strictly limited to explaining the issues debated. It may seem odd to see the Reformation through the lenses of literary history, but Lewis avoids open advocacy, unlike his "Preface to 'Paradise Lost,'" in which (it seems to me) his concern that readers take Milton seriously tends to blend with a concern that they take seriously their own salvation.

Lewis was also a poet, novelist, and occasional short-story writer. Here he occasionally briefly retells a story, with his usual skill, but, except for some overlapping topics, connections to his own fiction are less obvious than in some of his writings on the Middle Ages. There is a section on the Scots poet Sir David Lyndsay (d. 1555), who provided the epigraph to Lewis' novel "That Hideous Strength" (1946). And it includes, as others have noted also, a quotation with the words "Stygian puddle glum." This undoubtedly lurks somewhere behind both the Marshwiggle named Puddleglum and the visit to the Narnian Underlands in "The Silver Chair" (1953, written 1950), although Dante, Virgil (of course), and a host of others, are under contribution there as well.

I was under the impression, from my first reading of the book decades ago, that it was given as a quotation from Gavin Douglas' Scots translation of "The Aeneid" (1513; Lewis describes it with enthusiasm); but I had never been able to locate it in the appropriate section. A search of my old copy of the shorter paperback eventually revealed that it was indeed quoted from a translation, but as an example of bad one, and English, not Scots; of the dramas of Seneca, not Virgil. (Oh well, at least it was Latin....) On page 256 (where I had marked it in pencil thirty years earlier), there it was: "Tacitae Stygis" in "Hippolytus" (line 625), rather weakly rendered by the utterly obscure John Studley ("which cannot now be read without a smile").

Perhaps establishing just how much Lewis read, and with what close attention, no matter how dreary.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d2b9bdc) out of 5 stars Deserves its reputation as a classic. 22 Aug. 2013
By ChristineEllenNYC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Leaving aside Lewis's whole "golden" versus dull contrast (Shakespeare and Spenser are golden, of course), this is a classic because it really does have very astute interpretations of an astonishingly wide array of Renaissance genres. Lewis writes clearly and knows his stuff.
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