From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—This revision of the sixth edition adds material but not pages. The chronology, awards lists, and entries include works published through 2005, but entries from the previous edition have not been revised; the last case of Internet censorship cited is from 1999. Of the 16 two-page essays on various genres, only 2 have been given slight alterations ("Children's Literature" has lost its condescending conclusion). This edition contains more information on female and ethnically diverse writers. There are some omissions; for example, Alan Furst is left out of the "Spy Fiction" essay, and Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane
) earns only one sentence, in "Irish playwrights, new." "Gay and lesbian literature," which is no longer a separate essay, fails to mention several significant works, though they are treated elsewhere. Altogether absent from the book are authors such as W. G. Sebald, David Mitchell, and Ismail Kadare. Some choices are puzzling: Denise Levertov has twice Richard Wilbur's space; readers are told how to pronounce "Carew," but not "Bewick" (or Coetzee, Milosz, etc.). Flashes of wit-on "horror": "for every King there are a dozen or more knaves"-and verve ("Lads' literature"), leaven the learning. This is still the title to heft if you need elegant plot summaries, or help with anaphora, isocolon, and their ilk. However, for most purposes the previous edition still suffices.—Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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A staple in reference collections since it first appeared in 1932, The Oxford Companion to English Literature
) only improves with age. The eminent British writer Drabble assumed the editorship of this venerable work with the fifth edition, published in 1985, and she oversaw its two revisions, the first in 1995 and the second in 1998. Of the more than 7,000 entries in this sixth edition, approximately 660 are new. Many other entries have been revised and updated, while a sizable number (among them Cable, George Wash
ington, Infernal Marriage
, Mrs. Norris, Risorgimento
, and Will's Coffee
House) have been dropped. Approximately one-third of the new entries were authored by Drabble, and the others were contributed by a team of more than 140 noted writers and scholars (who are identified near the beginning of the volume); however, all entries remain unsigned.During her tenure as editor, Drabble has dropped the policy of excluding authors born since 1939, thus opening the door to broader coverage of contemporary writers. For example, new to this edition are entries for Pat Barker, Jim Crace, Roddy Doyle, Brian Friel, and Vikram Seth. Also appearing for the first time are a number of significant twentieth-century women authors who had previously been overlooked, including Zora Neale Hurston, Elizabeth Jolley, Angela Thirkell, and Eudora Welty. Among other new articles are Censorship
, Gay and lesbian literature
, and New
historicism. In addition, the volume includes 16 two-page survey articles, most of which provide historical overviews of particular genres and movements, for example, "Biography," "Gothic Fiction," and "Romanticism." Although 14 of these articles are essentially the same as when they were first introduced in the 1998 revision, "Metre" is a completely new essay, and "Structuralism and Post-Structuralism" replaces the earlier essay that focused only on structuralism. Following the dictionary portion of the work are a chronological chart, a list of British poets laureate, and lists of winners of four major literary prizes.Drabble is to be commended for the breath of fresh air that she continues to infuse into this compendium. It is obvious that she has made a concerted effort to represent more women and minorities and to reflect the ways in which literary criticism and publishing are changing. Unfortunately, however, some entries have escaped needed updating. For instance, the article on The Oxford
English Dictionary does not mention the three-volume supplement to the second edition or the availability of the online version. Moreover, the chronology does not include any literary works published after 1998. Among a number of contemporary authors whose omissions are surprising are Nicola Barker, Thomas Kinsella, and Tim Winton. Furthermore, J. K. Rowling, author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter books, is not accorded an entry, nor is she mentioned in the survey articles on children's literature and fantasy fiction.These quibbles aside, the OCEL
continues to be a valuable, reliable, and readable guide to the entire spectrum of English literature from its beginnings through the twentieth century. In light of its substantial number of new entries and revisions, most high-school, public, and academic libraries will want to purchase this new edition, even if they acquired the 1998 revision to the fifth edition. RBBCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved