Date of issue: 1 January Description of the book "English Literature in Context": Supporting the study of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present, this book is designed as an introductory text AND a helpful reference tool for an entire English Literature degree. Its key mission is to help students understand the link between the historical context in which the literature developed, how this has influenced the literature of the period and how subsequent periods in literature have been influenced by those that precede them. The book is carefully structured for undergraduate use, with a rich range of illustrations and textboxes that enhance and summarise vital background material. The seven chronological chapters PDF are written by a team of expert contributors who are also highly experienced teachers with a clear sense of the requirements of the undergraduate English curriculum. Each analyses a major historical period, surveying and documenting the cultural contexts that have shaped English literature, and focusing on key texts.
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DAM Copyright The British Library. Colindale, Front Page no. Reproduced with permission of the British Library, Dex. Reproduced with the permission of Punch, Ltd. Image, ref. He is currently researching discourses of memory in early modern literature. Professor Kitson is also Chair of the English Association —8. Not my affair. What did they put in their hot baths after jousting, and was the Black Prince — you know the Black Prince — was he enamelled or painted, or what? I think myself, black-leaded — very likely — like pipe-clay — but did they use blacking so early?
Wells, Tono-Bungay , p. What is somewhat less common is to see historical questions asked of literature — questions, for example, such as how and why particular types of literature should emerge from particular sets of historical circumstances. The academic study of literature usually takes for granted the idea that literature should function as a critical reflection on people and society in history, and on the ways in which people make historical sense of their lives, but it often glosses over the fact that literature in both its material and symbolic aspects is itself always actively part of the historical process and inextricably bound up with its surrounding historical contexts.
There has certainly been a growing trend among critics and scholars in recent years to place increased emphasis on the precise historical contextualisation of literature, and this trend has to some extent been reflected within degree programmes in English. However, it remains the case that undergraduate literature students often have only a fairly limited sense of relevant historical contexts, and this is partly because of the relative dearth of appropriate and accessible study materials within this field.
By its very nature, relevant historical information for the whole sweep of English literature tends to be widely scattered in a number of different sources, and, in any case, historical information of itself does not necessarily illuminate literary study without further interpretation and contextualisation of its own — and students often need guidance with this.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are also many useful books of specialised historical literary criticism which deal in close detail with specific periods, and these are certainly valuable resources for a focused historical understanding of literature. However, broad-based books dedicated to introducing students to the systematic study of literature in context, with historical and literary material relevant to all periods of literature, are very few and far between, and it is this particular gap in provision for students that the present book seeks to address.
English Literature in Context has been written and designed specifically for undergraduates to provide a detailed and accessible source of contextual reference material to support the study of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present.
The book offers a wide-ranging introduction to the key historical and cultural contexts in which literature has been produced through the ages and it explores the complex interactions between literature and its contexts through focused discussions of particular literary trends, movements, texts and issues within each period.
Each chapter of the book provides a comprehensive overview of one broad period of English literature, outlining important historical and literary events and examining the ways in which the diverse social, economic, political and cultural aspects of the period have informed its literary activity. As indicated above, the book has been written as an introductory text for undergraduates and, in particular, the authors have tried to maintain a clear, lively and accessible style of writing without any assumption of prior specialist knowledge on the part of the reader.
It should perhaps be noted that the authors are all experienced teachers of literature with a clear grasp of the learning needs of students as they progress through degree programmes in English, and the book has been designed to cater flexibly for those needs.
Using this book Each chapter of the book has a common structure of five main sections which move the focus gradually from the general to the particular as they each develop the dialogue between history and literature, contexts and texts. These five sections are as follows: i.
Among other things, the chronologies are intended to provide a quick reference guide to the literature and history of each period and to enable readers to make some critical observations of their own about the period, both before and after reading the main part of the related chapter. The first two sections then lay narrative foundations for each chapter by broadly surveying the historical and literary trends of the relevant period and by drawing attention to key points of conjunction between the two.
In their attention to textual and contextual detail, these critical readings are intended to draw together specific elements of the preceding historical, literary and thematic overviews while also serving as practical examples of how to discuss individual texts in close relation to their historical contexts. Within the common broad structure outlined above, there are different types of emphasis from chapter to chapter and many individual variations in how material is organised within each of the five main sections.
These variations reflect the different characteristics of each particular period including their differences in length as well as the different interests of individual authors — for, while we have aimed at a certain degree of standardisation of style and structure across chapters, we have wanted to avoid a narrow uniformity and have done our best to retain a clear sense of our own individual voices, along with a lively feel for the distinctiveness of our periods.
It should be made clear that the focus of the book is on British literature primarily and that American literature and other literatures in English are not dealt with in any detail here. Similarly, although several chapters touch on critical questions about how we define and delimit literary periods in the first place, and also about how we decide on what constitutes a relevant historical context, we have not felt it appropriate in a practically oriented book like this to dwell too much on such matters.
We are aware, of course, that there is no neat consensus on such matters and that English degrees are as many and various as the institutions which offer them, but we hope our coverage is sufficiently broad and balanced to meet the requirements of at least some parts of most degree programmes. We are by no means trying to prescribe particular programmes of study of our own, or indeed to narrow the possibilities of analysis and interpretation to the ones presented here.
Our hope is simply that we can provide a firm foundation for historically contextualised literary study, along with sufficiently stimulating examples of such study to encourage readers to make their own critical explorations in this field according to their own circumstances and interests.
For ease of orientation within that section, citations are always keyed to its various sub-sections A, Bi, Cii, etc. For her great perseverance and support, he would also like to express his love and gratitude to his wife, Angie. For his own chapter, he would like to thank the University of Leicester for granting a period of study leave during which some of the research and writing was carried out.
He is grateful, too, to Cynthia Brown for helpful advice on the illustrations and to past and present students and colleagues for making his contexts for the study of literature so congenial.
John Brannigan would like to thank colleagues and students at University College Dublin for their advice and support: in particular, Professor Tony Roche for a fruitful discussion on Larkin; Professor Andrew Carpenter for supporting a period of research leave which helped with the completion of the chapter; and the English graduates of for responding to classes on Sarah Kane and Pat Barker.
His wife, Moyra, and two children, Conor and Owen, helped with useful distractions and replenishments. Peter J. Kitson would like to thank his colleague at the University of Dundee, Dr David Robb, for help with the photography for his chapter and also Rebecca Jones for her advice and help with the illustrations.
English Literature in Context
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