Book Review: The Oxford Anthology of English Literature by Martin Pricecategories: Books, Humanities, english literature
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Great Literature!This book is FULL of GREAT literature, but it *IS* aimed at the advanced reader. At Lamar University (where I attended), the Restoration / 18th Century class (which uses this as its main textbook) is a senior level course. They also offer a graduate level course, that delves more deeply into some of the more well-known authors (Pope and Swift, mainly.)
HOWEVER, anyone who has a love for poetry can appreciate this book, even if they aren't an English major. All that is required is a little thoughtfulness and patience. Don't try to read it as quickly as you would a modern work; there are many words which will cause you to stumble if you try, because they aren't used much anymore, except perhaps in academic circles. But if you read carefully, you'll be able to figure out the "hard stuff" just by looking at the context with which it was used in the sentence.
Of course, some of the material may require a little research to fully understand, but that's to be expected when you attempt to read literature from an era so remote from our own. For example, if you read John Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel", it would help to know the biblical story that it is based on. Absalom and Achitophel are noble and deceitful biblical characters (respectively) who bear a striking resemblence in birth and political circumstance to The Earl of Monmouth and The Earl of Shaftesbury (respectively). "King David" represents King Charles II, and so on, so besides your biblical knowledge, it helps to have a knowledge of English politics of the Restoration era.
If all of this sounds too complex, consider this: What if a person from that era were to come to the 21st century and hear a FedEx joke directed at Kevin Federline? Without the knowledge that Kevin is the EX-husband of Brittany Spear, and that FedEx is a shipping company, the joke would be lost. At any rate, the book is filled with great literature, and even if you DON'T have the background required to make sense of the puns, the eloquence of the words themselves are beautiful. I highly recommend giving this book a chance!
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