British Literature II: Romantic Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond
Bonnie J. Robinson
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781940771113
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
Conditions of Use
No perfect anthology for the British literature survey course exists. For English majors, I have used the Longman Anthology of British Literature (Volumes 2A -2C) as well as The Broadview Anthology of British Literature (From 1945 to the... read more
No perfect anthology for the British literature survey course exists. For English majors, I have used the Longman Anthology of British Literature (Volumes 2A -2C) as well as The Broadview Anthology of British Literature (From 1945 to the Twenty-First Century); for my current course with nonmajors I am using the Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Major Authors (Volume 2). I was hoping to find an open-source textbook for teaching nonmajors, many of whom do not buy the “required” textbook. British Literature II: Romantic Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond is not that book, and it certainly would not be suitable for any serious study of British literature. Why assign a literature textbook if the literary works are not annotated? I was puzzled to find not only no explanatory notes, but also no line numbers for poems. There is no index, and no glossary of terms. As for the works themselves: British Literature II: Romantic Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond is completely inadequate in its coverage of the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. Only three of the authors presented are still alive; none were born after 1947. The selections for the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern periods are fine if unimaginative. It feels curmudgeonly to gripe about individual selections, but some choices are head scratching. Why include most of Frankenstein, but omit the crucial sections in which the creature gains an education secondhand from the DeLacey family? Why include an excerpt from Hard Times instead of all of a Christmas Carol? This anthology is missing what is one of the best features of all current comprehensive anthologies (including the Longman Anthology, Norton Anthology of English Literature, Broadview Anthology of British Literature): clustered readings on particular subjects (e.g. on the abolition of the slave trade, or the “woman question”). Such sections expand the range of voices (bringing in more popular selections, or writings by people of color).
The anthology includes a section on Anita Desai, born in 1937. The work included in this section, connected with a hyperlink, is to “The Domestic Maid,” published in 2014 by (as far as I can tell) a different writer with the same name. This mistake is unacceptable.
The sections that provide “Recommended Readings” are outdated.
The prose is clear but not compelling. The language is below university level.
Many of the later readings are provided by hyperlink rather than reproduced in full. Thus, the format is inconsistent. Note also problems with hyperlinks such as the one for A Room of One’s Own (University of Adelaide has discontinued its ebook site).
The textbook is divided into three parts: The Romantic Era, The Victorian Era, The Twentieth Century and Beyond. The last section should be subdivided.
See above on modularity.
There are no links from the “Table of Contents” to the specific works listed. See my comments in the “Consistency” and “Accuracy” sections.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
British Literature as a field contains many works that by our contemporary standards are “culturally insensitive” or offensive—in terms of class, gender, race, sexuality, etc. Some of those works are in this anthology. The problem is not the presence of these works, but the lack of readings by British writers of color, and the lack of specific sections addressing subjects like slavery, imperialism, decolonialization, etc.
I was hoping to find an open source book that would fit the needs of my students. Instead, I gained appreciation for the anthologies I have used. If instructors are looking for low cost options, I would suggest linking the syllabus to selections from the University of Toronto’s Representative Poetry Online and from Project Gutenberg. Then, require students to round out the syllabus by purchasing contemporary books written by living authors. Or, choose a comprehensive anthology that gives you room to be creative, and suggest your students purchase used copies.
I've used both Norton and Broadview anthologies to teach the British Literature II survey course (Romantics to Present) and I really wanted to like this anthology so that I could offer students a free alternative. However, after reviewing the... read more
I've used both Norton and Broadview anthologies to teach the British Literature II survey course (Romantics to Present) and I really wanted to like this anthology so that I could offer students a free alternative. However, after reviewing the anthology, I don't think I would use it in class because it recreates so many problems with anthologies -- namely that the authors included are 98% white. There are only two authors of color that I recognized in this anthology and both of those in the 20th-century section. If an instructor wanted to use this in a course, they would need to do a lot of additional supplementing of other writers and texts to give students a more comprehensive and diverse picture of British literature from the Romantics to the present. At that point, one might as well use Norton or Broadview which are at least more inclusive and diverse in their representation than this anthology. I also found some of the choices of texts a bit odd. The only text included for Byron is Manfred. No Don Juan? While Manfred is interesting, it is not a good, or the best, representation of Byron's work. The only text for Christina Rossetti is Goblin Market, and while Goblin Market is a very good poem, I would expect to see at least a few of her other shorter poems such as "Winter: My Secret" or "When I am dead, my dearest." There is nothing from Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, but 30+ pages from Joyce's Ulysses. To end the anthology with Salman Rushdie and not include other contemporary writers such as Hanif Kureishi or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seems incredibly short sighted. There may be copyright issues that prevent the inclusion of more contemporary writers' works, but there are in fact no Black writers in this whole anthology, which copyright aside, makes this anthology extremely problematic and not suitable for my classroom.
I am troubled that there are no footnotes and no glossing of unfamiliar words for students. This seems especially problematic in the Romantic and Victorian sections, which students can struggle with on the basis of style and language. I am also concerned that in the sections titled "Recommended Reading" the citations are incomplete, missing basic publication information such as the press which published the recommended readings. In anthologies, one would also expect an index or dictionary of literary terms and unfortunately this anthology also lacks that tool.
This text reproduces a view of British literature that, while frustratingly biased to colonized writers, writers of color, and LGBTQ+ writers, still persists in many academic circles.
The information included is lucid and accessible to many readers.
This text uses accepted terminology and the standard labels (Romantic, Victorian, etc.,) for these periods.
I found using such a large PDF to become quickly cumbersome without internally hyperlinking the titles of works.
The text moves chronologically and follows the organization of other anthologies.
I did not notice any interface issues, navigation problems, or distortion of images.
I did not find any glaring grammatical errors.
I would not use this text based on its omissions of writers of color and its omissions of colonized writers. While there are some women writers and LGBTQ+ writers included, there could - and should - be many more.
All of the major authors I would expect to see are included. There are quite a few women authors included (e.g., A. L. Barbauld, C. Smith, E. Bronte, C, Rossetti, E. B. Browning, G. Eliot, V. Woolf). However, there are many fewer selections for... read more
All of the major authors I would expect to see are included. There are quite a few women authors included (e.g., A. L. Barbauld, C. Smith, E. Bronte, C, Rossetti, E. B. Browning, G. Eliot, V. Woolf). However, there are many fewer selections for each author than you would get in the Norton Anthology of British Literature, which is the textbook this book would substitute for in many classes. To take just one example, Byron is here, as one would expect, but the only text by Byron included is Manfred. There is not a single stanza from Don Juan! And not a single stanza from Childe Harold! Not a single lyric poem! Why not? Surely those works are out of copyright? Also it should be noted that the Table of Contents is quite misleading in terms of the ideas it conveys about coverage. For example, the TOC lists six Stevie Smith poems, but if you go to the page listed, you'll see it merely links to web versions of these. The links are to a good, reliable website, but I felt it was somewhat misleading to say that the poem is in the book if it just links out to a website. Likewise, "Waiting for Godot" is listed as included, but in fact it is merely linked. I clicked on the link and it took me to the play, but the text there had no line numbers and wasn't paginated. I found myself wondering how students would refer to the text in discussions or papers. They could print it, of course, but many would not and, even if they did, each student would end up with different page breaks. It would be extremely hard to direct someone's attention to a specific passage. The passage in question might be on page 20 for some and page 24 for others. In other words, "linking out" to a work, even a reliable one is not a great substitute for have line numbers and/or page number that can be used to direct large numbers of students to one passage.
The sections I read seemed accurate and free of obvious bias.
Consensus is still emerging about some recent writers. Which ones will be regarded as must-read classics in 50 years? I don't think anyone knows for sure. Since that is such a difficult question to answer at this point, no anthology is likely to please all instructors. The editor of this book includes a handful of frequently-taught post-WW2 authors but leaves out numerous others. This, however, I view as an unavoidable problem.
The brief introductions seem fine, but I was stunned to discover there are no footnotes (or line numbers) for most (perhaps all) of the poems and prose selections. I want my students to have footnotes for Eliot and Yeats and many other authors. I can't imagine assigning The Waste Land or Ulysses without notes. This seems to me a serious shortcoming of this book.
No complaints in this area.
I do not see any problems in this area.
Organization is chronological and very much like the Norton Anthologies, but without the thematic clusters the more recent editions of the Norton include.
Layout seems good. Attractive and readable. Color pictures here and there represent a (rare) area in which the book is superior to some Norton anthology editions.
No problems that I noticed.
I didn't notice any problems. Some of the bibliographies and lists of selective readings don't go much beyond 1980, however.
I'm not sure how I feel about students bringing a pdf to class instead of a book. It would be easier to carry around, of course, but then they are on their computers during class, with a world of distractions beeping in their face. In many ways, I prefer to have a student come with a book. I wanted to like this textbook but ended up wondering if I would use it. This book is sort of like a set of Dover Thrift editions stitched together with introductions, study questions, and bibliographies added. But no notes or glosses. If you are comfortable teaching from the text without much support apparatus, you might be comfortable using this edition.
I just got through a semester using the Broadview Anthology of British Literature Concise, Volume B, Second Edition. This book was expensive for students. Robinson's text has the same material I used during the semester. read more
I just got through a semester using the Broadview Anthology of British Literature Concise, Volume B, Second Edition. This book was expensive for students. Robinson's text has the same material I used during the semester.
The commentary and discussion questions are valid and useful for first or second year students.
For anyone who is teaching British Lit. II, the list will and should remain quite steady, at least up to postmodernism. This anthology has all the must reads.
The main problem with the text is it does not have any embedded line notes, footnotes, or translations. Most students need a guide for this "new" language. Armed with side and foot notes, the student is much more easily involved in rendering the meaning. I would have trouble teaching this text to the freshman novice who needs these embedded side and foot notes to understand the text on his/her own.
The text accurately gives historical context and recommended readings. Again see the note above on lack of defining difficult terms for students.
It is easily compacted into nicely individualized headings.
The time progression of British Literature is clearly indexed.
The look and navigational flow of the text is highly friendly and the print is well fonted for projectors and online poges.
Did not see any grammatical or photographic errors.
In comparing my usual textbook for this class, again I see nothing missing here of relevance. The historical commentary and place setting of the readings are well done.
The main thing that would stop me from using this text, unless it is for graduate students perhaps, is the lack of side and foot notes in the text. Without a guide next to the language, most beginning students would be lost.
For an anthology of British Literature it isn't very comprehensive. Even within the canonical authors the selections are slim and at times a bit bewildering. None of the poetry or prose sections have any footnotes that would help student readers... read more
For an anthology of British Literature it isn't very comprehensive. Even within the canonical authors the selections are slim and at times a bit bewildering. None of the poetry or prose sections have any footnotes that would help student readers with language, allusions, or historical context. More troubling is that the footnotes don't exist and thus can't help readers understand the various revisions or versions of the poems on offer--so we can't understand the why of the selections. While it is true that you can't have students read everything, I'd feel constrained by some of the choices. For example, yes Keats's "One First Looking into Chapman's Homer" is often read in high schools, omitting it here makes it difficult to ask students to re-think the poem based on a deeper understanding of Romanticism. While the text does bring in some woman Romanticist--Smith, Shelley, Hemans, Barbauld, it also ignores Romantic essayists and even Southey who while now a minor figure was important in the era. The selection for Lord Byron is a bit mystifying. Some of the selections from Dorothy Wordsworth's journal are puzzling given the William Wordsworth poems. For example, "I wandered lonely as a cloud..." but then the selection from Dorothy's journal from which the poem grows is not there. While Christina Rossetti is known for "Goblin Market" her other poems such as "In an Artist's Studio" are important to understanding the relationships among art, literature, and gender. Its omission is troubling. I'm not sure if T.S. Eliot's "The Hollowmen" is just dated or why it isn't included here. Puzzling omission. The complete lack of WWI poetry is puzzling.
I'm concerned about the lack of apparatus. None of the poetry or prose sections have any footnotes that would help student readers with language, allusions, or historical context. More troubling is that the footnotes don't exist and thus can't help readers understand the various revisions or versions of the poems on offer. Such omissions combined with the lack of full or accurate titles is troubling. For example, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" omits the full title "Lines Written (or Composed) a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798" with no acknowledgement of that fact. Yes, we commonly refer to the poem as "Tintern Abbey" but omitting the date part of the title doesn't allow instructors or students to think about the significance of the date--July 13th within the larger Romantic discourse and what it is that the poem may be doing and/or saying. This is just one example of how the contents may give students an inaccurate view of the poems and the periods. In terms of accuracy, the lack of footnotes (many of them included by the poet and thus are part of the poem) for "The Waste Land" is a bit puzzling. Yes, the original printing of the poem didn't include the footnotes, but just about any authoritative edition of the poem includes them. I'm not sure how one teaches Eliot's poetics--the poetics of Modernism with out them. Even if you don't read them per se, their existence is part of the poem. I'm a bit bothered by the lack of line numbers for the poetry. I'm not sure how this would work in class or how I would talk with students about proper in text citation of poetry without line numbers. Moreover, there is no apparatus to help students understand the dates of publication--it is as if the poems, essays, letters, stories, etc. exist in historical vacuum. Yes, we have the author notes, etc. but it is useful to know that poem was perhaps written, published, revised, etc. over a period of time or after a long period of contemplation of the historical or cultural event. And since there is no acknowledgement of the various versions of a text, the question of accuracy--of which copy text is being used and why is hard judge.
Well for the periods, many of the selections are fine despite the glaring omissions and the modern selections are unlikely to go out of date.
The period introductions and author notes are for the most part clear and accessible.
The text uses accepted terms--Romantic Era, Victorian, etc.
The PDF works a bit against modularity. That being said the use of periods is conventional and thus there is built in modularity from that organization.
The chronological order is fine and what most instructors and students expect from a literature anthology.
PDF are cumbersome. It's hard to find a text and there's a lot of scrolling. The thumbnails are useful, but a linked TOC would have been nice. I'm not sure how easy it would be to compare two texts in class--say looking at W. Wordsworth poem and a D. Wordsworth journal entry. Or a Keats letter and a Keats poem. The page headings are vague--just the book title and big section title--British Literature II ....... Romantic Era for example. It would be nice to have the author name and/or the text title to help instructors and students navigate to the text. The lack of line numbers for poetry is very troubling.
I didn't find any glaring errors, etc.
While the text does offer up some women writers, especially for the Romantic and Victorian eras, it like many anthologies ignores texts by colonized people. I understand that due to copyright concerns some writers such as Derek Walcott may not be feasible to include, but for the 19th and early 20th centuries the lack of diversity is a bit troubling. Much the same critique can be made of the commercially available anthologies as well.
I'm not sure I'd use this text as there are too many omissions. I'd just go to the trouble of linking to the texts I'd want students to use. If I were to use an anthology, this isn't it.
The text covers canonical main authors of the periods, but the scope of the volume means that even canonical coverage is necessarily sketchy. The "Twentieth Century and Beyond" is particularly thin, especially after the Modern period, when the... read more
The text covers canonical main authors of the periods, but the scope of the volume means that even canonical coverage is necessarily sketchy. The "Twentieth Century and Beyond" is particularly thin, especially after the Modern period, when the selection seems random. Coverage includes male and female authors, primarily white. The text offers poems, a novella, excerpts of novels, two plays, and a scattering of relevant non-fiction. There is no index or glossary.
I give this section a 3.5. I found no obviously inaccurate statements. The introductory sections are very brief, however, which necessarily leads them to oversimplify complex material and thus risk giving students a skewed view of literary periods and movements. Faculty would have a lot of supplementary work to do. I dedicate much of my class to battling students' tendency to render complex issues in falsifying, simplistic terms. I would hesitate to use a book that shows a similar tendency. Often, the author does an excellent job of concisely summing up a complicated concept. At other times, though, as with the Romantic period, the discussion is too schematic and oppositional. Yes, Wordsworth and other Romantic poets reacted against eighteenth-century conventions, but they weren't hostile to reason and logic in principle, which is what this intro implies. Then, too, in today's polarized political climate, I'm leery of defining Romanticism as essentially the same thing as "liberalism." I know that many of my students would interpret this word only in a narrow, contemporary US political sense, especially when the book explicitly contrasts the Romantic Period to the "conservative" eighteenth century (yet without contextualizing the terms). Terminology overall can be vague and undefined, leading to possible misunderstanding. For instance, this passage occurs in the intro to "Twentieth Century and Beyond": "Victorian realism gave way to obviously artificial structures. To the modernists, the visible, space, and time are not reality; rather, they are modes through which we apprehend reality." Such a comment won't help students understand that "realism" isn't "reality," either; it is also a "mode through which we apprehend reality." Both the Victorian and Modern sections could lead students to think that "realism" is a straightforward and uncomplicated reflection of the real world. Still, given the brevity of the intros, the author manages to cover a lot of important material.
In introductions, the author is careful to consider issues of gender, race, and class, so the content feels contemporary. The "Recommended Readings" lists, however, are quite dated. No doubt some thirty- to sixty-year-old works of lit crit can still be useful and interesting, but they are definitely of their time.
The text is readable and should be accessible to students.
I don't see a principle of selection for the "Recommended Reading" lists. Some of the critical texts are well-known (if dated) classics in the field; other choices seem more random. We get biographies of a few authors but not all. (Why Blake and Wilde and Joyce but no one else?) Otherwise, I found no problems with consistency.
Students will have no trouble following.
The organization is chronological, which is standard and fine as far as it goes. But I would like to see some topical or thematic listings, too.
The text and illustrations function well; lay-out is consistent. I do wish that the Table of Contents were linked to the actual sections, so that readers could cut to relevant passages instead of having to scroll endlessly through the entire text.
I didn't notice any grammar errors. A few sentences can be hard to follow, like this one: "To the modernists, the visible, space, and time are not reality." "Visible" initially reads as an adjective, not as an obvious noun like "space and time." I had to puzzle over this phrasing for a minute. And there are a few typos -- random hyphens; Jerome McGann's book "The Romantic Ideology" is spelled "Idealogy," etc. But on the whole, the grammar is fine.
Nothing insensitive leaped out at me. The author does address issues of class, race, and gender. I would wish for more diversity in the 20th-21st century selections, though.
If your main goal is to save students money, this text provides a solid selection of canonical British literature and offers very basic introductions as starting-points that a faculty member could supplement, contextualize, and complicate. None of the works is annotated, however -- no definitions, no historical or cultural explanations. Students need this sort of apparatus, or at least, mine do. So they'll save money, but they're likely to lose some understanding.
Comprehensiveness is the main difficulty with this text, partly because of copyright restrictions, but also because of the scope of this kind of undertaking. As I noted in another section of this review, "The structure of the sections is... read more
Comprehensiveness is the main difficulty with this text, partly because of copyright restrictions, but also because of the scope of this kind of undertaking. As I noted in another section of this review, "The structure of the sections is consistent throughout, but the quantity of material is unevenly distributed across the sections. Even though the later material under copyright couldn't be directly included, the book could still have author biographies and suggested texts for writers that should be included or considered for inclusion in an anthology of this kind. " The other problem is that the book is completely lacking in the scholarly apparatus that I know my students need to understand texts as they read (glosses on archaic or dialect words in footnotes or alongside the text, as well as footnotes to explain allusions or contextual information). The introductory sections on the literary-historical time periods and historical context are also extremely basic. I would have to supplement it significantly for students to have the full knowledge they needed to understand the texts and the issues in them. As I noted elsewhere in the review, the book also doesn't contain any sections focused on important themes or topics in the time period, and those are often the sections my students find most interesting, especially because they also contain texts of different non-fiction genres, which are mostly lacking in this collection.
The broad overviews of literary-historical time periods and historical context are fine as far as they go, although they are not very detailed.
The recommendations for further reading are significantly out of date. These are not lengthy lists, and with a single exception (Said's Orientalism from 1993), all of the recommended texts were published between the 1950s and 1980s. I think even if students wanted to read them, they might have trouble finding extant copies of some of them, and surely something worth reading has been published in the past 28 years. In addition, the section of the text covering the twentieth century and beyond is very limited in scope. I will grant the issue that most of the literature from this time period is still under copyright and that the textbook must link to work that is available elsewhere rather than reproducing it as can be done with work in the public domain. However, the list of authors from this time period is still pretty canonical and is very limited. Even a list of suggested literature would be useful to students wanting more material.
The introductions and author biographies would be easily understandable by high school students and beyond.
The structure of the sections is consistent throughout, but the quantity of material is unevenly distributed across the sections. Even though the later material under copyright couldn't be directly included, the book could still have author biographies and suggested texts for writers that should be included or considered for inclusion in an anthology of this kind.
The sections would be easy for students to identify and navigate.
The book is organized chronologically as are most anthologies for literature survey courses. However, many anthologies include sections that are also arranged thematically or address significant issues in each time period, which is very useful for helping students to consider larger issues and a wider genre of texts related to specific topics, such as imperialism or women's rights. This text has none of those sections, not even an index of related topics, so it's hard to give too much credit for chronological organization.
It's a PDF, so it is relatively easy to navigate, although internal links from the table of contents would be really helpful in an 1100+ page PDF file.
The grammar seems fine generally, although I noted a number of words that included hyphens where there should not be hyphens (for example, in a compound modifier in which the first word is an adverb ending in -ly, and the word "plotless" is spelled "plot-less"). I would be hesitant to introduce a text with these errors to my students.
I didn't see any offensive cultural references in the authored material. Some literary texts from this time period contain some comments or words that are offensive, but, of course, we discuss them in that context in literature courses.
I didn't feel that the discussion questions were helpful as part of the book's apparatus. While they indicate themes or ideas that the reader should consider, they are too directive. Since many of us try to teach our students to develop their own inquiry skills, having such questions in the books seems limiting and distracting.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The Romantic Era
- 1.1 Romanticism in Literature
- 1.2 Historical Context
- 1.3 Recommended Reading
- 1.4 Anna Laetitia Barbauld
- 1.5 Charlotte Smith
- 1.6 William Blake
- 1.7 William Wordsworth
- 1.8 Dorothy Wordsworth
- 1.9 Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- 1.10 George Gordon, Lord Byron
- 1.11 Perey Bysshe Shelley
- 1.12 Felicia Dorothea Hemans
- 1.13 John Keats
- 1.14 Mary Shelley
Part 2: The Victorian Age
- 2.1 The Victorian Movement in Literature
- 2.2 Historical Context
- 2.3 Recommended Reading
- 2.4 Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- 2.5 Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- 2.6 Robert Browning
- 2.7 Emily Bronte
- 2.8 George Eliot
- 2.9 Matthew Arnold
- 2.10 Charles Dickens
- 2.11 Dante Gabriel Rossetti
- 2.12 Christina Rossetti
- 2.13 William Morris
- 2.14 Gerard Manley Hopkins
- 2.15 Oscar Wilde
- 2.16 Rudyard Kipling
Part 3: The Twentieth Century and Beyond
- 3.1 Modernism and Postmodernism as Literary Movements
- 3.2 Historical Context
- 3.3. Recommended Reading
- 3.4 Joseph Conrad
- 3.5 William Butler Yeats
- 3.6 Virginia Woolf
- 3.7 James Joyce
- 3.8 D. H. Lawrence
- 3.9 T.S. Eliot
- 3.10 Stevie Smith
- 3.11 Samuel Beckett
- 3.12 Doris Lessing
- 3.13 Fleur Adcock
- 3.14 Anita Desai
- 3.15 Seamus Heaney
- 3.16 Salman Rushdie
- Ancillary materials are available by contacting the author or publisher.
About the Book
The University of North Georgia Press and Affordable Learning Georgia bring you British Literature II: Romantic Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond.
Featuring 37 authors and full texts of their works, the selections in this open anthology represent the literature developed within and developing through their respective eras. This completely-open anthology will connect students to the conversation of literature that has captivated readers in the past and still holds us now.
- Contextualizing introductions to the Romantic era; the Victorian era; and the Twentieth Century and beyond
- Over 90 historical images
- In-depth biographies of each author
- Instructional Design features, including Reading and Review Questions
This textbook is an Open Educational Resource. It can be reused, remixed, and reedited freely without seeking permission.
About the Contributors
Bonnie J. Robinson, Ph.D., University of North Georgia