Cover image for The Continuum encyclopedia of British literature
The Continuum encyclopedia of British literature
Serafin, Steven.
Publication Information:
New York : Continuum, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 1184 pages ; 29 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR19 .C66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

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This comprehensive guide to all British literature also includes literature in English from the colonial and postcolonial periods in Africa, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, India, and New Zealand. Important authors from these areas are covered in substantive topical articles on their respective literatures. The contributors, from the UK and US, are all experts in their fields, and include: R. S. White on William Blake; W. H. New on Canadian Literature in English; Derek Brewer on Geoffrey Chaucer; Ian Ousby on Detective Fiction before 1945; David Kirby on Expatriates; Merryn Williams on Thomas Hardy; Sandie Byrne on Tony Harrison; Fred Marchant on Ted Hughes; Peter Barnes on Ben Jonson; Ian MacKillop on F. R. Leavis; Norman Kelvin on William Morris; Claire Tomalin on Samuel Pepys; and Peter Finch on Poetry since 1945.

Author Notes

Steven R. Serafin is a leading authority on modern world literature. He is general editor of The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature as well as general editor of the new edition of the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century and the supplement to Modern Black Writers, as well as the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. With Chukwuma Azuonye, Serafin is coeditor of The Columbia Anthology of African Literature. He is affiliated with Hunter College of The City University of New York.Valerie Grosvenor Myer was the author of many books, including biographies of major literary figures. She also contributed to numerous literary encyclopedias and reference works. A former literary editor, Myer was affiliated with Cambridge University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Intended to complement Continuum's Encyclopedia of American Literature 0 (1999), this compendium covers "literature that is by definition British in scope or origin, including the literatures written in English from the colonial to the postcolonial experience in Africa, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, India, and New Zealand." However, it does not provide separate articles on authors from these areas unless their nationality is British. The team of more than 200 contributors includes academics from a variety of countries as well as such distinguished authors as Peter Barnes and Claire Tomalin. Most of the encyclopedia's 1,700 entries are devoted to writers. The only title entries are for early works by unknown authors, for example, Ancrene Wisse 0 and Beowulf.0 The 69 topical articles provide lengthy historical overviews of specific genres, themes, literary periods, and geographical areas. Among these are Caribbean literature in English, Feminism, Old English0 , and War and literature.0 With the exception of brief author entries of approximately 300 words or less, articles are signed and include bibliographical references. Coverage of newer authors such as Iain Banks, Roddy Doyle, J. K. Rowling, and Zadie Smith is commendably generous, but some entries for living authors lack currency. For example, the articles on Fleur Adcock, Brian Aldiss, and Paul Theroux mention none of their publications from the past decade. Moreover, the editors' policy regarding British nationality limits treatment of many notable writers from Commonwealth countries (such as Booker Prize winners Peter Carey, J. M. Coetzee, and Thomas Keneally) to brief mentions in the survey articles. Fortunately, the volume has a detailed index, which is invaluable for locating information on authors not accorded separate entries and cross-references from pseudonyms and variant names. Supplementary material includes a chronological chart noting historical and literary highlights, lists of monarchs and poets laureate, and lists of literary prizewinners. With more than 7,000 entries, the sixth edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature 0 (2000) provides more comprehensive coverage of English-language literatures. On the other hand, Continuum0 frequently offers greater depth because its entries are generally longer. For example, the Continuum0 article on playwright David Hare is five times longer than the one in the Oxford Companion.0 In spite of its flaws, this work will be a useful addition to public and academic libraries. However, its steep price may prohibit its purchase by the smaller libraries that would benefit the most from its contents. -- RBB Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

This complement to The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature (1999) aims to provide a "comprehensive survey of the growth and development of [British] literature" from Anglo-Saxon England to today. Covering literature that is British in both origin and scope-thus including selections from the British Isles as well as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and the nations of Africa and the Caribbean associated with the British colonial experience-this well-structured reference contains 1200 entries, ranging in length from one paragraph (e.g., "Hodgson, William Hope") to several pages (e.g., "Young Adult Fiction") and covering authors, genres, and various broad subjects. Author entries (e.g., Aelfric, Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Wordsworth, E.M. Forster, and Ben Okri, to name just a few) include vital statistics, brief biographical and critical overviews, achievements, and a bibliography. Some 200 experts in the field of British literature from both the U.K. and the United States have contributed to the work, among them R.S. White, who writes on William Blake, and Fred Marchant, who writes on Ted Hughes. Other useful features include a time line outlining both historical and literary events from 5000 B.C.E. to 2002 and a list of poets laureate and literary awards. Cross references abound. Overall, the entries contain useful information, and though they are not as extensive as those in Masterplots, they are nevertheless broader than those in The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Bent's Reader's Encyclopedia, or Cassell's Encyclopedia of World Literature. A solid purchase for all libraries.-Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Like Serafin's Encyclopedia of American Literature (Continuum, 1999), this reference work provides a fascinating current take on the canon. It aims to be up-to-date: Zadie Smith (b. 1975) gets a full page. It notes a writer's style and ideas, not just dates and titles. Among its strongest features are 70 topical articles that explore literary connections with music, politics, war, the city, film, popular song, religion, humor, law, counterculture, etc. A lucid exposition of postmodernism, for instance, ties the use of the term in general culture to its literary associations. The volume's sharp focus and depth complement the detailed plot summaries, rhetorical terms, biographical details, and entries on continental authors in The Oxford Companion to English Literature (Oxford, 2000). Writers as different as Isabel Colegate, Benjamin Zephaniah, and Mervyn Peake may reach a wider audience in the U.S., thanks to the sensitive appreciations in the Encyclopedia. Of course, most readers will have a quibble: they may wish that J. M. Coetzee had a full entry or that Patrick Leigh Fermor got a nod, at least, in the travel essay. They may be frustrated by the fact that the index does not include titles. And the 70 essays, excellent as their overall level is, are of less utility as introductions to their topics because they don't always mention those writers who are important enough to have their own entries. However, the historical/literary time line and the lists of prize titles alone will keep researchers happy.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Designed to accompany Continuum's volume on American literature (ed. by Stephen Serafin, 2000), this work enters the crowded fray of subject encyclopedias in English literature. Its more than 1,200 entries consist of essays on individual authors, brief entries, and topical articles covering issues such as discovery and exploration accounts and South African literature in English. Entries are longer than those found in the Oxford Companion (6th ed., CH, Apr'01), and nearly all are signed and include brief bibliographies. Among other content is a list of the monarchs of Britain, a historical-literary time line, and lists of poets laureate and literary prizewinners. Despite the claim of "extended coverage" for authors born in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, entries for Irish literature appear limited to well-known writers. Some popular authors are included, a laudable aim; but tighter editorial control is needed--errors both factual and typographical abound in the entry for J.K. Rowling. Contributors range from well known to scholarly neophytes, which makes for some unevenness in reading. Libraries on a budget will be better served with either the Oxford or Cambridge companion volumes; Continuum's is recommended, with reservations, for larger collections. ^BSumming Up: Optional. General readers and undergraduates. H. C. Williams Harvard University