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Customer Review

on 6 February 2011
I have been studying this book as part of the Open University course A210, Approaching Literature.

The book is in two parts.

Part one is seven chapters of analysis of Pride & Prejudice, Frankenstein, Great Expectations and Fathers & Sons. It's also an analysis of the period in which they were written, and the genre of realist novels.

Part two is nine extracts from books or essays of analysis from nine different people, including Arnold Kettle, Ian Watt, George Levine and Roland Barthes. Their subjects are closer inspection of reality or realism in novels, romance, imperialism and Jane Austen.

It's a complicated book that's difficult to study, because it's simply not clear what it's arguing. Although it is normal for OU books to be written by several different writers with different opinions, the analysis of the writers of part one is overlapping, contradictory and unfocussed. There are so many different references to Jane Austen within the analysis, of all chapters, that to find the significant quote you are looking for, you need to reread an unwieldy amount of text of either your notes or the course book. The second part of the book is better written as it's sourced from specific texts with specific meanings, and though these are still complicated, they have the benefit of being focussed.

I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone not studying Approaching Literature with the OU. Try Rhetoric of Fiction or for feminist lit crit, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination (Yale Nota Bene).

The course this book is written for is being discontinued, and so I hope they have something better for the replacement course, as this book is very poor for the Open University.
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