British Literature I Anthology: From the Middle Ages to Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century
Bonnie J. Robinson
Laura J. Getty
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781940771281
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
Conditions of Use
The textbook provides a good sense of comprehensiveness; although some things are missing ( Margery of Kempe, Lady Mary Wroth's poetry & prose), the text provides sufficient coverage. What is missing can be added with some effort. read more
The textbook provides a good sense of comprehensiveness; although some things are missing ( Margery of Kempe, Lady Mary Wroth's poetry & prose), the text provides sufficient coverage. What is missing can be added with some effort.
The overview/contexts provided present a reasonable and accurate sense of both the historical and literary contexts.
The medieval and early modern texts provided cover the range of texts available and thus will remain relevant.
The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used. Medieval texts, which often give students great difficulty, have sufficent aparatus/translation to be useful and accessible. Gawain and the Green Knight, however, lacks such translation.
The text provides clear consistency; the reading questions in particular make connections that allow students to note consistent, seminal patterns in early British Literature.
The textbooks provides logical and clear points of separation and/or sections; this will allow for clear modules and distinct unit within the early British survey.
Organized largely chronologically, the text provides a standard periodization as remains dominant in both British and American teaching contexts.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader. The bookmarks in the pdf work well and correspond precisely to the included page numbers.
The text introduces no grammatical errors.
As much as is possible for a British literature collection, the text uses a range of examples that engage a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, including Aphra Behn and Olaudah Equiano.
Although the collection leaves out some important women writers, the choices it makes include a focus on women and gender in a fashion that reflects both the state of literary criticism and classroom demographics. Overall a B+.
The anthology does a good job of covering the periods and including some women writers as well as a writer of color (Equiano). There were some texts whose absence I noted, such as those by Margery Kempe and Eliza Haywood, but no anthology can be... read more
The anthology does a good job of covering the periods and including some women writers as well as a writer of color (Equiano). There were some texts whose absence I noted, such as those by Margery Kempe and Eliza Haywood, but no anthology can be completely comprehensive. What I missed even more, though, was a lack of cultural context. Introductions focused more on historical events than on cultural context such as social/class structure, gender roles, values and mores, etc. This lack of cultural context continued in the texts themselves with the absence of annotations. However, I did appreciate the Reading and Review Questions provided at the end of each text.
I noticed no inaccuracies.
The content is up-to-date and unlikely to need updating. The anthology includes literary works that have been accepted as significant, and the introductions and contextual material is quite general (and therefore unlikely to require updates as scholarship progresses).
While the introductions are clearly written, the clarity of the literary texts, in particular those of the medieval period, is questionable. Unlike most anthologies for early British literature, no explanatory annotations (contextual or translational) have been included to assist students in understanding these texts that are written in cultural contexts very different from our own. In addition, some of the texts, such as _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, are not translated into (more) modern English; as that text is presented in the book, I could not ask my students to read it.
The introductions are relatively consistent, although length and depth of introductions to individual authors and texts varies somewhat.
The sections are set up by traditional time periods which work well for creating modules. The interface allows for navigation by section headings, including authors with subheadings for the individual texts and the review questions. However, there are large sections of text (of about 100 pages) in some selections where there is no breakdown of the subsections or navigation options other than scrolling, which would be problematic for assigning to students. For instance, the selections from _The Canterbury Tales_ is not broken down into the individual tales and prologues for navigation or even as a preview in the TOC; readers must scroll through the hundred pages to see what is offered and find page numbers for reference.
The text is well organized by period.
The navigation interface worked well except in those areas where the navigation to subsections was unavailable (as detailed above under modularity).
There is a rather glaring typo in the heading for Section 4, which lists the years for the eighteenth century as 1603-1688 (the same years as Section 3). This is incorrect in both the TOC and in the section heading itself (as well as the navigation label). Other than that, I noticed no issues.
There is nothing cultural insensitive or offensive.
This text provides a wide range of good texts, but there are some odd omissions. Including Julian of Norwich is great for facilitating discussion on female mystics, but what about Margery Kempe? We have some solid Middle English selections, but... read more
This text provides a wide range of good texts, but there are some odd omissions. Including Julian of Norwich is great for facilitating discussion on female mystics, but what about Margery Kempe? We have some solid Middle English selections, but why exclude The Vision of Piers the Plowman or John Gower? Further, the readings from Chaucer are also somewhat limited. An anthology by nature will inevitably exclude some texts, but some of the choices here are rather strange.
The front matter to texts is generally accurate, although it is a bit more brief in some areas than others. There is a larger issue, however, of citation in the front matter. At times the editors in these prefaces are relying on other scholarship but their citations are slim, if present, and do not consistently guide students or instructors to resources for more in-depth study. More strange, however, is that texts provided in translation provide no attribution of the translator. For Beowulf the editors appear to be using Leslie Hall’s translation, but attribute her work nowhere in this book. This same lack of attribution carries through to each of the Old English, the Middle English translations, and the selections from Marie de France. This lack is troubling both from the intellectual property issues it raises as well as the vital importance that translation can be in interpreting a text, instructors and students alike often needing to consult both the translation and the original in their own work. On this front, the authors are also not consistent on providing sources for where the version of the texts they are using come from, leading to further questions over how trustworthy some of this work is.
The texts themselves will not undergo significant change, but their scholarship will and, from what has been provided, has. What to include in introducing a text is a tricky subject, as too much information can be as functionally ineffective as too little, but there are times in this text where more context would be beneficial and should reflect more current research. For example, discussion of the structure of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight does not include current textual scholarship, especially that of Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, and some of the discussion could use more current scholarship than Putter (1996) and Tolkien (1967).
The text of the introductory material is generally clear and well written. There is work to include a range of sociohistorical contexts and how various movements matter. The material can be a bit brief at times, however, and more clear sourcing of this content would be very welcome.
The above discussion about consistency of textual choices notwithstanding, the introductory material of the anthology is consistent period to period and text to text. While more coverage in some areas would be beneficial, a similar attention to detail has been applied to each.
The text can be modularly divided by period to meet specific needs. There is some reference to other sections, but this is done to establish context and doesn’t necessitate that readers will have read these other sections as well.
Topics are clearly presented, and the front matter of each section works to situate the respective sociohistorical contexts within British literary history.
There is a clear table of contents that helps guide through the text.
There are a few small issues but generally the text is consistent on grammar.
The text here is no insensitive of offensive, although the focus of this can, at times, be oriented to somewhat glance over sensitive topics. For example, Great Britain’s role and history in the slave trade is not thoroughly discussed, which is odd in key places such as Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. The most that gets discussed on this front is a side statement: “Britain saw increased prosperity particularly through commercial trade—that included slave trading—colonial expansion, and industrial progress culminating in the factory system” (2122). Certainly what to included and not include in such a work is difficult, but the larger impacts of the slave trade are more vital to the historical context here than has been covered.
In sum, this anthology has a great deal of useful context and information, but the consistency in the sourcing and provided information makes for some difficulty in utilizing the anthology in the classroom. The instructor can provide additional context, as is necessary for any anthology, but the lack of clear source raises questions about what is here and where the instructor or students can go for more in-depth reading.
This digital anthology offers the potential delight of a full banquet of tasty readings. The range of British Literature: Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century and Neoclassism encourages old curmudgeons with its full plate of nourishing dishes.... read more
This digital anthology offers the potential delight of a full banquet of tasty readings. The range of British Literature: Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century and Neoclassism encourages old curmudgeons with its full plate of nourishing dishes. However, one rues that the menu does not include some neglected favorites. Where is that wondrous allegory of William Langland with his dream and seven deadly sins? Where is that first English autobiography of the wildly mystical Margery Kempe? Where is that most significant literary publication of Tyndale’s or King James’ Bible? Or, for that matter, the sublime phrases of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer? And why not, instead of so many John Donne and Robert Herrick poems, substitute the humble, but very accessible, poetry of George Herbert? Where are bits of the Wesley brothers, especially any hymns of Charles (and any of Cowper and Newton’s Olney hymns—one short sermon of John’s would suffice)? Why Moll Flanders over Robinson Crusoe? And then, with a wink and a bit of mischief, where is that classic flyting of Dunbar and friends? (I can understand, but not enjoy, the exclusion of that Scottish makar, Robbie Burns, but he would add such spice to the gathering.) Nevertheless, such a work revives a worthwhile history that slips away while publishers print more ephemeral works. (PS. For what it is worth, one other reviewer recommended Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” to balance Like Montagu’s response and I concur.)
I applaud the merry inclusion of comic literature (e.g. Chaucer and Swift) with the pious and solemn.
Third, the succinct introductions provide basic instructional historical context and literary insight into the readings. While one wishes for more explanation of literary allusions, such an encyclopedic addition would be too cumbersome. (Such will be the responsibility of the individual professor.) Adding the review questions supplies both a focus for the introductory student and a gentle prompt to think critically. One of the better notations is Tolkien’s riddles connected to the Exeter bits like “The Bookworm”.
Finally, a glossary, vocabulary aids, and relevant footnotes would be helpful for students, as with Latin phrases, this line from Beowulf: “Oft Scyld the Scefing from scathers in numbers”, or the Middle English of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I do think that a brief identification of “Key Terms” might work to the book’s advantage. So, too, an index and dates of publication would be quite useful.
As far as I read, the content of the introductory material and the translations appear remarkably accurate. However, the challenge of using the best translations is problematic, noting the dilemma of accessible texts and copyright issues.
In an era in which historical literature wanes, the relevance of this material looms greatly. Its longevity has already been demonstrated by its inclusion. Its relevance, in a culture tainted by chronological snobbery, is crucial to correct our intellectual myopia.
The introductions to each period provide solid and manageable material, without adding the academic nuances regarding each text. As such, students can access the larger picture and be prepared to have an enjoyable first meeting with the writings. However, there are “foreign” language phrases throughout that students may stumble over or ignore. Can one clarify or translate them for the readers. Nevertheless, the reflective questions enable confused students to gain a clearer perspective on what it is they just read.
The structure of the anthology is blessedly consistent. Its framework follows a logical and chronological order as clear as bread crumbs on a path into a dense forest. The unit Introductions and the Recommended Readings allow the students to get her bearings and proceed with a map in their cluttered minds.
The modularity works well for an introductory text. It doesn’t complicate what graduate programs will. It integrates various literary genres into a recognizable time period, suggesting links among the texts.
As a firm advocate of historical chronology, rather than genre or topic, I celebrate the organizational flow. For students to learn that writers stand on the shoulders of other writers, that originality is grounded in imitation as much as inspiration, is foundational for learning (and for humility). One can easily learn where one stands.
However, with other reviewers, I would murmur, complain, and grumble over the lack of line numbers for the poetical texts. Such navigational aids enhance teaching and learning. To enable close readings with students, one must be able to guide them directly to the verse in question.
Students who are very adept at navigating all manner of digital material will find the interface quite slow and frustrating. The difficulty is in transferring from one writing to another, as the collection seemingly requires one to return to the Table of Contents. Scrolling takes much longer than clicking to a particular page. Perhaps a link like the “Find” on one’s Word documents might enable them to traverse an interactive world of literature more efficiently. But as a Luddite, I can only see the problem and not know how to fix it.
I looked and looked, but found no grammatical errors or editing mistakes, except in any Anglo-Saxon or Medieval writings where everything is misspelled (hah).
The criteria of cultural relevance are overdetermined and too often introduce a fundamentalist dogma. The inquisitive and imaginative students will find more about their world by attending to these historical texts than in taking another identity formation course, where the Procrustean bed of significance tends to be ideologically driven and reductionistic. Cultural context for these writing, particularly in their religious Zeitgeist, would open up the readings so that students could contrast the postmodern milieu with this Western tradition. These works actually show a diversity of thought and style that seems sorely lacking in contemporary writings.
To summarize my review, I am grateful for a lucid and compelling anthology that follows a chronological structure. The breadth of offerings is most commendable (other than my own peculiar biases mentioned at the beginning—where are the hymns and the wild flytings?) and forms a solid foundation for the student of British history and literature.
I believe that a more fluid interface with internal links, an addition of line numbers for poetic texts, footnotes that clarify particularly obscure allusions and semantic differences,
One other recommendation concerns the visual aspect of the text (the pictures are dull). What might provide a welcome break to the readings is a germane image or illustration (maps are fine, but don’t provoke the imagination as much as a dramatic painting). For example, in dealing with Lady Montagu and Alexander Pope, include the fair use image of William Powell Frith’s “The Rejected Poet” (1863), to put flesh onto the word. Or include the illustrated frontispiece for works by Spenser (such as Knight Redcross) or Dryden—rather than their portraits. And think of all the potential dramatic images for Milton’s Paradise Lost! Let an image of Beelzebub wake up the student. This is a visual generation and such vivid works will work wonders on them.
Nevertheless, I commend the authors of this open-source anthology for the vision and labor of compiling such an inviting and accessible (and less expensive) work.
For full disclosure, I have assessed this anthology according to a specialized criteria: namely, how does it fit with a study of British literature and religion and how does it expand the usual selections, as presented in Alistair McGrath’s Christian Literature: An Anthology? I am impressed with its range from its initial offering of the The Dream of the Rood through The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, much of which contributes to my courses. And, of course, the opportunity to reduce the cost for students under enormous debt, is a main advantage.
No index. A glossary is much needed. I would have liked an anthology with more authors and fewer selections from each. Key terms without adequate definition right there is sort of like a vocab list w/o definitions. read more
No index. A glossary is much needed. I would have liked an anthology with more authors and fewer selections from each. Key terms without adequate definition right there is sort of like a vocab list w/o definitions.
I found no glaring errors in the headnotes.
It's hard not to be relevant with material that peters out at the end of the C18th! That said, I appreciated the effort to include less well-known voices and marginalized authors (women in particular).
I would have liked much more extensive headnotes and period discussions. That said, what we have works quite well with students.
I saw no inconsistencies in the anthology.
I would have liked a book with greater modularity. There are really only major period breaks and little attention paid to genre or region.
Yes to the extent that a decision was made to have chronology dominate.
Very good in this regard.
The headnotes are well written and lucid.
I would have liked much more attention paid to cultural context, but it is not culturally insensitive.
I enjoyed the frequent use of illustrations although the captions are rather unimaginative. This is almost as good an anthology as the Norton (for example) in terms of depth and much superior in readability. I have used this book in Brit. Lit. before and will do so again until/unless I come up with my own.
Some of the translations are not the best, but that, I know, becomes a question of what is available free.
This textbook is easily comparable to the Norton and other similar anthologies for a survey course. What is especially useful here are the headnotes and recommended reading lists, as well as the follow up questions at the ends of readings, which... read more
This textbook is easily comparable to the Norton and other similar anthologies for a survey course. What is especially useful here are the headnotes and recommended reading lists, as well as the follow up questions at the ends of readings, which other similar anthologies generally lack in this subject. The early and middle medieval works are in modern English, which is also appropriate for a lower-division survey, where there may not be time to teach even rudimentary Middle English, and certainly no time to cover Anglo-Saxon. Any pieces missing from the anthology, like any other, could be easily supplemented elsewhere, and the addition of female voices is appreciated.
Headnotes and questions provide concise but helpful direction to the student, and the carefully chosen information sections are accurate. The text seems to be geared to the student experiencing these sometimes challenging periods of literature for the first time, and this makes the text accessible. The choices of the modern English translations of the medieval texts is also apt.
Since the textbook covers older literature, it would be easy to say that relevance doesn't change much; however, the textbook is up to date with our current conceptions of these time periods and the literature associated with them. Important to note is the inclusion of female authors of the periods, which is often omitted in older anthologies of this type. The text's strong nod to diversity (such as it was in early canonical literature of Europe) is well represented here, giving a current presentation and understanding of the periods.
As I mentioned above, the clarity of the headnotes is worth noting here; they are both brief and full of helpful context and information for the reader, with a clear intent of introducing the new student to the time period and historical moment of the text, as well as structural and thematic nuance.
The text is quite consistent throughout in providing notes and structure that is predictable for the student, no matter where they are in the book, or what section they jump into. The nature of an anthology is to provide a similar experience no matter where the student starts reading, because it's not possible to read the entire book in one course. This book achieves that well.
Because of the very nature of anthologies, it's necessarily modular, but as I mentioned above, it is consistently organized and students should be able to have a great experience with the text no matter where they encounter it.
Organization is also a mostly given structure here, as the texts are necessarily placed in chronological order, but the text does a good job of breaking up the groups of texts into meaningful literary movement and historical contexts. This is extremely useful for the survey course in early British Literature, which tends to move students through big sections of history in only a single semester.
The text is easy to access, read, and navigate.
The book is well edited and clear; no immediate errors were found.
As I mentioned above, this time period of literature lacks the kind of diversity overall that contemporary students are often looking for, but the text does cover what diversity is there, particularly female voices in early and middle medieval texts.
I would use this text in my British Literature survey before turning to an expensive physical textbook in future. All of the main texts are here, it provides excellent context and makes the pieces accessible for the new-to-these-texts student. The choices of modern English translation of the early texts are also good and
Since this is an anthology that covers earlier English literature, the students need help with vocabulary, but there are no aids accompanying the texts of readings. There is not even a glossary at the end (although that would be much less useful... read more
Since this is an anthology that covers earlier English literature, the students need help with vocabulary, but there are no aids accompanying the texts of readings. There is not even a glossary at the end (although that would be much less useful than notes accompanying the text). For example, even in the Chaucer section, where the spelling and to a certain extent the language is modernized, definitions of archaic terms would be helpful. Certainly such definitions would be absolutely vital for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is presented in the Middle English. There are lists of undefined Key Terms at the end of each section, but these lists are not guides to the vocabulary in the readings. The lack of vocabulary aids alone would prevent me from assigning this text.
Note on modernization of language: The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English are much easier for my students to read than Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It seems odd that the selections from The Canterbury Tales are modernized while Gawain is presented in Middle English--and, again, with no vocabulary aids.
The introductions to each reading are accurate and useful if (no doubt necessarily) somewhat slender. For example, one introduction gives one sentence to the fact that "Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt?" can be placed within a literary tradition. It is unfortunate, however, that there are no contextual notes provided alongside the readings themselves to build upon such hints, for example, a comment on the relevant passages in Beowulf and The Wanderer or on later poems that catalog and comment on how ephemeral material being can be, such as Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.”
Because this is an anthology of earlier English literature, the texts are filled references to events and literary allusions that will go over the heads of students without more apparatus than is provided in this anthology.
The selections are of major works from the canon of earlier English literature. While the canon has evolved over time, these readings likely will continue to be assigned. The organization follows the customary breakdown into literary periods that, again, is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The introductions to the literary eras and the individual readings are clear. I would only wish, as I indicated in earlier comments, that there were an expanded literary apparatus. That fact results in there being less than "adequate context."
Occasional departures from consistency of framework, such as sometimes a "Bibliography" being provided, other times "Recommended Readings," and other times nothing at all.
As a literature anthology, it is inherently modular.
The book is organized by recognized literary periods, and within those, authors and texts. This organization makes it suitable for most literature survey courses.
You can click from the table of contents to a section, but there are otherwise no internal links allowing you to navigate within the book. It is basically a print text converted into a PDF and uploaded. The textbook is 2971 pages in length, and other than clicking on a link to get to the beginning of I section, I had to scroll to get anywhere--turning the pages of a print book is actually a quicker way to navigate to a specific page than scrolling through a lengthy PDF.
Something else that I would call a navigation issue is the lack of line numbers in poems. In discussions and logs, my students are required to ground arguments in specifics, including citations to line numbers. Discussions, for example, would quickly get bogged down if my students were not able to rapidly direct their classmates to the lines that they wish to rely on to support their interpretations.
There are no issues with grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
The includes numerous selections from woman writers/a woman's point of view from the periods covered: Wife's Lament, Marie de France, Julian of Norwich, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Herbert, Aemilia Lanyer, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Anne Finch, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The anthology also includes excerpts from the narrative written by the enslaved, then-freed African Olaudah Equiano. The inclusion of Behn's Oroonoko would support discussions of issues of race and colonialism; similarly, excerpts from Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders would support discussions of issues of gender and class.
The selection and organization are suitable for an undergraduate survey course in earlier English literature. It would be helpful for student comprehension if words and allusions were glossed, and it would be easier to use the textbook (1) if there were internal links and (2) if poems were provided with line numbers.
There is a good assortment of texts here from both male and female writers of the periods covered here. I liked that each selection had a short introduction by the editors, some illustration, and some questions to get the reader thinking deeper... read more
There is a good assortment of texts here from both male and female writers of the periods covered here. I liked that each selection had a short introduction by the editors, some illustration, and some questions to get the reader thinking deeper about the text. Overall, these reminded me of apparatus in primary/secondary school readers, so I think the continuity might help the student feel comfortable with the textbook. I did especially like that the contents pages were hyperlinked to selections in the text itself. I feel the average teacher might find much value here, but I do have some serious reservations with the overall effective of this edition. (There is also no index to the book, and any glossary is limited to three short word lists given without any attempt to define those terms.)
I'm a medievalist, so I was most interested in the material on medieval literature. The selections were comparable to those in the Norton Anthology, with the notable omissions of William Langland and Margery Kempe and the inclusion of only a small section from Thomas Malory. However, I did have some notable concerns with editorial practices related to the unit (and book) as a whole.
First, I don't see any bibliographic references for the texts (or any text in the book, for that matter). Where are these reproduced from? One World Lit text in the Open Textbook Library had a bibliography that noted it used out-dated, publicly-accessible versions of its text. That seems the case here as well. Some of the translations sound very archaic and not modern. Second, in a text that seems designed to promote accessibly, why are the Middle English selections not translated or, at least, modernized? (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Middle English is especially foreign looking.) I wouldn't expect non-English majors to read these texts in the original. Why do the editors? Lastly, I don't see any glossing or notes to any selection (either here or elsewhere in the book), something usually found in anthologies designed for students. What level of education and comprehension are we assuming for readers of this book? This also further limits its use as a teaching tool because the instructor also wouldn't have any resources to answer student questions.
I don't see any specific issues with factual accuracy or deliberate bias in what I reviewed, and, again, I think most instructors would find the book of value to them and their students. However, the introductions are short and could probably be bettered by contributions from experts in the period, text, or writer to give the reader a better ability to engage the text with regards to current debates about the work. More critical, I think, is the issue of the texts themselves and the ability to see them as "accurate". As noted, I feel the translations and editions used are out-dated for a twenty-first-century textbook, and, to me, that impacts the accuracy and comprehension of the individual texts and the potential for missing out on more recent interpretations and ideas about each text. In addition, not knowing the origin of the version of each text used also concerns me. Too often students gravitate towards such freely-accessible editions to save money. I would hope that an anthology designed as specifically open-access would do better in its selection and commission of versions towards adopting better/more accurate texts (like Norton does). Otherwise, this is no better than something my students might cobble together.
Again, while the selection is relevant, given the corpus/canon, I don't feel the versions of the texts are relevant for today's readers. I'm probably in the minority here, but this is always my big concern with open access. If you use an older edition or translation of a literary text, then that ignores all of the history of scholarship produced since then. I don't know where these versions come from, but the World Lit text I looked at was using items as old as the 1860s. That's a long way from 2020. I fear these versions could be as old.
I feel clarity is greatly impacted by the concerns addressed earlier, and I would hope these issues would bother others as well. The materials by the editors are clear and contemporary, but the texts themselves are not. Versions used appear antiquated and are sometimes inaccessible to the average student reader. We're not asking our students to read the Old English texts here in Old English, so why is Middle English chosen in place of translated texts? (I think the Norton Anthology also has some issues with this, but, as far as I know, it's version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has always been a translation.) Also, without any glossing or notes, students may not fully comprehend the texts, whether medieval, early modern, or modern.
I suppose I would say the book is consistent; although, that consistency is its often biggest drawback. The layout and design are similar section to section and unit to unit, but issues with the origins of each specific edition of the texts used and lack of support are also reoccurring.
The book does not appear entirely modular to me in the way that other open-access books can be. I do find value in its aids to navigation using the links in the contents pages. Yet, I also notice that sections run together on the page, like other common anthologies, rather than separate each selection to an entirely discrete section of its own, which might be done since a ebook doesn't need to conserve paper. Finally, there is no way to disassemble the book, but one might refer students to the specific links given in the contents pages to effectively pull the book apart.
No concerns with organization. The contents are mostly chronological, as expected in this type of textbook.
No notable issues with the interface as observed in the online version.
No noticeable grammar issues with the content original to this textbook. The literary selections vary greatly with respect to the language of 2020, and, while that might be an expected issue, that might reduce the ability of a reader or teacher to comprehend the texts included.
No notable issues with cultural content. The selections are mostly conservative and in-line with the standard canon of British literature for these eras. Not knowing the sources of the versions chosen, I can't comment directly on the content as insensitive, offensive, or not; however, I suspect an older version of the texts included might have more potential issues than a more recent translation or edition, such as included in the Norton Anthology. Future editions of this textbook might also offer greater "variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds," as best applicable to each period. I would also urge the editors to replace older translations and/or editions of the texts already included with more recent ones (or newly commissioned ones) and provide more critical apparatus that could allow students to create greater cultural awareness about each text.
As noted at the outset, I think I'm probably in the minority in downgrading aspects of this textbook and critiquing it so harshly. The Norton Anthology is an admirable work, but students today don't like (or can't afford) to pay for their textbooks. I see this book as one attempt at an option, but, to receive my praise and recommendation, the editors of this (and other similar anthologies) need to think more critically about the specific versions of the texts they use and/or at least be more transparent in their origin. There also needs to be more effort made to aid students and teachers in comprehending and enjoying the literature they are reading through translation and/or modernization, glossing, notations, and more critical apparatus.
I am pleased to see such a wide variety of work, including not only excerpts but full texts. This book contains everything from riddles and poems to plays and a novel. The notes are readable, and the discussion questions are written for students... read more
I am pleased to see such a wide variety of work, including not only excerpts but full texts. This book contains everything from riddles and poems to plays and a novel. The notes are readable, and the discussion questions are written for students to think about works individually and in comparison with other texts.
My comment here is a 4 rather than a 5 because the lists of key terms are just that: lists. If you are going to tell students in a preliminary class that these are the main terms they need to understand, then there should be a definition with the term or clicking on it should take back to the relevant information. Students can do a search for the term, but if they use a shorthand (I typed "heroic" rather than "heroic couplet," for example.), they might be confused by their results.
I checked the elements I am most familiar with, the selections from the medieval period. I did not see anything that looked to be in error. The notes are clear and concise. There are some interesting comparisons that would spark student interest (The Lord of the Rings and The Wanderer, for example).
There is one glaring typo. The dates (1603-1688) for Part 3 are repeated for Part 4 ["Part 4: Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth
Century (1603-1688)"] despite the fact that the section title says "Eighteenth Century." I admit that this make me (probably unfairly) wonder what other small errors I might have missed.
This is a text meant for students learning the first half of British Literature. The texts themselves will not become dated. However, I noted that most of the works suggested for additional reading were from books from roughly the middle of the twentieth century. I am not sure how easily available to students these would be.
The notes are clear and concise. The reading and review questions address a variety of issues.
The four major units each start with Outcomes and end with relevant terms. Each section contains a variety of readings and similar treatment in terms of notes and reading questions.
A syllabus for British Literature could be set up in a variety of ways using this text. An instructor could use the primary sources with or without assigning the additional resources. More familiar texts can be paired with lesser known works. A day's assignment might be several short works, such as Medieval lyrics, or a work might be divided over several day, a Shakespearean play or Swift's novel.
This text moves smoothly through time from the early Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century (There is an error with the dates for the last section, as noted above).
Bookmarks, if a reader knows how to use them, make this an easier text to maneuver through than it may first appear.
Although I did not read every word, I did not notice any typos other than the problem listed above with the dates in the section title.
This is a tricky question for a work such as this one. This a work focusing on the early period of literature in England. For the most part, this means the works will be those written by the authors of the time and place: white men. There is a good effort to include works by women, and the last selection is actually a slave narrative by Oloudah Equiano.
I think I've said everything above.
The Table of Contents and introductory materials are excellent, and cover much the same ground as the comparable Norton Anthology; an index would make this text more accessible for a survey class making choices on which pieces to emphasize. read more
The Table of Contents and introductory materials are excellent, and cover much the same ground as the comparable Norton Anthology; an index would make this text more accessible for a survey class making choices on which pieces to emphasize.
I especially appreciate the contextualization of selected pieces in the chapter overviews, with more biographical and publishing detail provided in the selection preface.
One of the most common student complaints about this kind of survey course is its emphasis on white male authors, and I see that echoed in these textual selections and their contextualizing material. Kempe is notably absent, as is the infamous exchange between Swetnam and Speght. I also find the review questions on material such as Queen Elizabeth's speeches to emphasize content more than context or challenging the canon.
The text is straightforward and accessible, and constructed with student access in mind.
While I'll admit to not closely reading the entirety of this comprehensive anthology, it seems consistent in both tone and content. I may revise this element of my review as I teach with it.
This is a necessary component of designing this sort of text, and well executed.
There are elements of thematic organization within the larger chronological divisions.
No problems I noticed here.
Per what I already said about diversity of authorship and contextual notes: I do think this book could work harder to include a full range of early British authorship. This is an easier project with the later survey courses, but Britain was not a monolith before the Tudor period, and certainly isn't afterward.
Overall, the textbook delivers a solid and thoughtful compilation of works representing the time periods of this anthology topic. As some others have noted, Kempe could certainly be included. Some other topics and authors that could enrich the... read more
Overall, the textbook delivers a solid and thoughtful compilation of works representing the time periods of this anthology topic.
As some others have noted, Kempe could certainly be included. Some other topics and authors that could enrich the text might be: a more diverse selection of the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval poems, especially those that might present more surprising depictions of family and social relationships or relevance of the natural world ("Get Up and Bar the Door," "Deor, " "Seafarer," "Sir Patrick Spens," etc.).
I was surprised not to see more emphasis on ballads, as well, especially since they can add an important pivot to the second anthology. But, more importantly, some students might take only the early British Literature course. In this case, they might not really learn much about this important poem form, its origins, and its great influence on poetry and music to this day.
While the AS Chronicles are mentioned in recommended reading, they could be included, as well. In particular, some samples can be especially engaging to students and helpful for appreciating the scientific knowledge level and general mindsets of the times.
I also agree with some reviewers that Sidney could be more extensively included.
In addition, the editors might also consider including samples of Chretien de Troyes, in counterpoint to Marie de France, and perhaps William Langland, to highlight genre diversity of the Alliterative Revival.
Including another work by the Gawain-Poet/ Pearl-Poet could also strengthen this anthology.
Including more narrative poem sampling of Shakespeare could be thought-provoking, for both appreciating the Bard's range of skill and contrasting other authors' approaches to allegory, etc.
If including these suggested pieces is too cumbersome, perhaps they could be more prominently mentioned in the recommendations lists (they seem to lean more toward secondary sources).
In contrast, the amount of Herrick seemed unexpectedly extensive (though an e-book seems a good place to be more robust than scant).
The text includes a nice selection of riddles, a nice surprise given that too many anthologies seem to marginalize them.
The book seems generally well-edited and thoughtful. The unit and author introductions are quite strong. They are clear and full of solid, factual information.
The content seems solid and up-to-date. The overall structure is chronological--which is a clear, logical, and standard approach.
In some ways the sequencing within a unit might be improved if works of the same genre were placed back-to-back (such as placing a mystery play just before a morality play sample, for more explicit juxtaposition). That said, an ebook is easily navigated, and a professor should segue the course readings, as appropriate.
The unit introductions show great care in making the information easy to digest, whether a student is an English major or not. This book could also serve nicely for an honors high school course.
The comprehension questions and terms lists are also solid and helpful.
The text is logically structured. It follows chronological order. The terms are clarified within the introductory prose portions of the units. The follow up in the terms sections, at the unit ends, also supports student learning.
The text flows logically. Again, the chronological approach essentially provides a very logical order for teachers and students alike.
That said, a professor could also, with ease, approach the material through genre or thematic approaches without trouble.
This text connects, rather than separates, the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval eras.
The material is generally provided in manageable portions.
The chronological sequencing makes for a very clear organization. The readings are sandwiched between clear introductions on the front end and reading comprehension and terms on the back end. The sequencing facilitates easy teacher planning and comfortable student learning.
Delineating the AS and Medieval portions a bit more clearly could help students who get overwhelmed, especially when tackling older versions of the English language. Doing more with side by sides (original and modern translations) could also help struggling students, for instance, in tackling the Gawain piece.
The interface is generally clear. The table of contents is standard and easy to use. An index would be a nice addition, however.
The images included are helpful, especially the maps. Including more images of actual places and illuminated manuscripts could help decrease student reading fatigue. Many students are acclimated to reading on screens, but they are perhaps accustomed to more breaks from text.
The headers are solid and logical, but transforming from a two-part to a three-part header could be very helpful. Right now the headers include the book title and unit name. Including the title of the work could be very helpful for students new to ebooks or for people in a hurry to get to a specific reading without bouncing back to the table of contents to find an actual page number to "hunt on."
Generally quite strong! -Maybe just a few glitches (punctuation of play titles sorts of things).
Overall, the text is solid. Editors might consider the placement of the last author, to avoid appearing as a "tack on." Perhaps some of the Shakespeare readings could add more to this area, as well. While the included comedy is a great reading for gender relations and communication studies, some of his other works could also address racial or religious depictions of the times more directly. Perhaps mining Chaucer a bit more thoroughly could also bolster this area, as well. Some ballads also deliver insights especially into the expectations and experiences of females of the medieval period.
Overall, an impressive book! The text could certainly serve quite well as a main text for an early British Literature course.
The book has some moments of deep comprehensiveness (Venerable Bede is presented exhaustively, with several chapters on details of political and theological minutiae that I have a hard time imagining being read in its entirety in a survey course),... read more
The book has some moments of deep comprehensiveness (Venerable Bede is presented exhaustively, with several chapters on details of political and theological minutiae that I have a hard time imagining being read in its entirety in a survey course), and at other times it seems to do "greatest hits," to the point of sacrificing breadth. We have a goodly amount of Chaucer, but no Margery Kempe or Caxton or male mystics, only a bit of Marie de France. "British Literature" seems narrowly construed--more writings of British explorers and colonizers/colonists would be helpful here. It's nice to see Equiano included at the end, but he feels tacked on, rather than integrated.
The text gives sound, general overview in the essays on the periods and the authors, but doesn't venture much. Compared to the standards in the field (the Norton, the Oxford, and Longman anthologies), the introductory features are quite brief, and avoid wading into current areas of interest among scholars. So, it's easy to be accurate when there isn't much level of detail.
I believe the anthology is constructed to be a standard for a number of years, mainly by following the deepest treads in the road. The introductory essays in the anthology could have been written at any time since 1985. There is acknowledgement of women authors, and one author of color, but other anthologies are more up-to-date and representative of the variety of authors in the period. I would use this for the classics in it, but would have to supplement if I were to teach a survey more in line with today's understanding of the discipline.
The introductory essays are quite clear and to the point. I really wish, however, that there were more guiding footnotes to the primary sources, as you find in the standard anthologies in the field. Where I am a little puzzled is in some of the choices for translations of the primary materials: I'm happy to see the Chaucer passages streamlined into more modern spellings and translations rather than just splatting out the Middle English for students to sink or swim in, but why does the version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have such scant consideration--it contains thorns and yoghs and "v"s used instead of "u"s, all with no guidance to the student about these things. This is completely out of character in comparison to other Middle English materials in the section. Because the Gawain poet uses a different dialect from Chaucer, and the Middle English Lyrics are translated to only have gestures toward "thou" and "speaketh," this seems very uneven in terms of clarity of text to students.
Please see my comments under Clarity. The choices for translations in the medieval section are not very consistent in their style of English and syntax, which I think would be quite frustrating to students. As well, the complexity/depth of the study questions vary greatly throughout the anthology. In some, like the Venerable Bede section, they seem more like reading checks than heuristics leading the students to a deeper level of understanding of the content.
As an anthology, this text is imminently modular. In fact, its chief virtue is its modularity. I would use this anthology as a free source for some of its better-presented texts: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer, Milton. But, for these very same authors, there are dedicated scholarly websites with much better supportive apparatus, so perhaps it would be better to say that there are sufficient modules in the aggregate that I would choose this text for the student to give her/him one document file as a source for several of these pieces.
Yes, this is clearly organized, but the nature of the genre makes this almost a given. The anthology is organized chronologically. It consistently has a general introductory essay to the period, and then a briefer intro for the specific primary sources. I wish that on the pages themselves the headers would tell the student where, specifically, in the anthology they are (instead of "Middle Ages" and page number, why not "Middle Ages, Author"?). As an ebook, the table of contents function is pretty rudimentary.
This is, as noted above, an effective, rudimentary organization of materials. There are very few bells or whistles, just the occasional link out to a website, some nice wiki-commons images of authors and frontispieces of manuscripts. The table of contents is basic. Not much innovative is ventured, so this functions effectively.
Yes, this anthology is well-proofread and the authors are professionals in their use of the English language.
The anthology is the embodiment of inoffensiveness. It makes a sincere effort at gender balance, has one author of color at the very end of the book, and is mum on any cultural issues that are hot-button topics today. It's not bad, but it is not as conscientious or detailed on these issues as the standard texts in the field are (the Longman, the Norton, Oxford and Cambridge). Any instructor with a commitment to reflecting current scholarship on these texts will have to bring their own training to bear on the anthology.
This is a fine free resource for instructors wishing to save students money, and who have their own pedagogical materials to supplement what is offered here to introduce the primary sources. The study questions in particular are suitable for high school or freshman students, but do not assist an instructor in giving an in-depth presentation of this very rich and complex subject matter. It is a workman-like anthology, and will allow the instructor to re-allocate student expenses to a few smaller, specific books for a course which otherwise would have been invested in an expensive industry-standard anthology.
I was surprised to see a lack of any sonnets from Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare in the Tudor section of the anthology. In the 18th century section, I would have included Swift's "the Lady's Dressing Room," especially because Montagu's reply is... read more
I was surprised to see a lack of any sonnets from Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare in the Tudor section of the anthology. In the 18th century section, I would have included Swift's "the Lady's Dressing Room," especially because Montagu's reply is included.
I like the abbreviated lists of recommended readings and the learning objectives for each section. The questions for discussion could also be helpful.
While I have not combed through the textbook with a fine-toothed comb, I can say that perhaps a bit more work on consistency could happen. For example, within the Chaucer section the dream vision about birds is titled at least three different ways: Parlement of Fowles, Parliament of Birds, and Parliament of Fowles.
Another issue that may fall under accuracy is language, especially with the medieval texts. For example, the frontispiece on Chaucer does not discuss language at all related to the text. Clearly the texts have been translated to some extent but not fully, so this does not accurately represent the original piece. Some disclaimers about translation choices should be made. My sense from just glancing at the opening lines of the 'General Prologue' is that some words have regularized spelling, others have been fully translated into modern English, and still others are left alone or misspelled. Since there are no line glosses to clarify word meanings, this adds to the difficulty of reading this text in a classroom.
Due to the nature of the literature contained within this textbooks, the works contained within will never become out of date or obsolete. With a textbook such as this, the question is really about what may be excluded or included. For example, should more short prose pieces that give cultural context or more women writers be included? This is really a question of what you want you class to accomplish, and may be easily added to class content without much difficulty.
The textbook materials, the frontispieces for each reading, seem to be clearly written.
One of my biggest issues with this text is the lack of line numbers. Since most of the content is poetry, and presumably students would have to use these works in their writing, there is no easy way to direct readers to close reading of sections of the poem except by page numbers; this is inadequate for working with poetry, especially if students are expected to quote from works in their writing for a class.
Another glaring absence is footnotes throughout. While I understand that footnotes are editorial in nature, there are works for which these are fairly crucial, such as Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'
The structure and presentation of texts seems to be consistent.
The way the texts are sub-sectioned makes a lot of sense. I particularly like the division of the Tudor from the early 17th century materials. However, I would have liked to see the Middle Ages similarly sub-sectioned. This is an even longer swath of time with very distinct markers that separate the Anglo-Saxon materials from the High and Late Middle Ages.
It does seem like works would be easily extracted to build a smaller, more tailored anthology for a class. However, I could recommend that any new work start on a new page, so that extraction becomes even easier. For example, If I only wanted to extract "The Dream of the Rood," I would get the beginning of Beowulf on the last page. Since this is an electronic text, I don't believe there should be a concern for white space left on pages.
The sequencing of the works is logical and works well. When a work is excerpted, I would suggest that the textbook needs to indicate which selections are included. For example, 'Paradise Lost' is a very long work, but unless I scroll through the whole section, I would have no way of knowing that a particular book or portion of a book was not included in this anthology, as it is not indicated in the Table of Contents.
I appreciate the ability to move from the Table of Contents directly to a text by clicking on the title. However, other potential navigation functions beyond Go To # would be helpful: it's a large text which means a lot of scrolling (the scrolling enhances of the difficulty of close reading, as there are no line numbers to help readers get to precisely where they might want to be in a poem).
I did not notice an egregious number of errors.
This is a difficult thing for this course material to accomplish well. It's difficult to move away from a class with texts mostly written by old white men. However, the content does include text written by women for every period covered.
I appreciate the work that this book demonstrates, and I also appreciate the use of images throughout to help illustrate relevant concepts, individuals, etc.
The range of texts offered in this compilation is relatively good, with some notable exceptions: Margery Kemp, for example, is traditionally taught in tandem with Julian of Norwich; although all anthologies must make difficult choices in this... read more
The range of texts offered in this compilation is relatively good, with some notable exceptions: Margery Kemp, for example, is traditionally taught in tandem with Julian of Norwich; although all anthologies must make difficult choices in this regard, it is notable when such a strong woman’s voice is excised from a collection already top-heavy with men. In general, however, the compilers make a good effort at providing a useful range of authors and texts. The editions selected were chosen, evidently, because they are not protected by copyright, which is a double-edged sword: It is extremely valuable to offer such texts for free to students, of course, but out-of-date translations and editions do not benefit from recent scholarship, however, and may contain language and embody preconceptions that could prove problematic if presented to students without any sort of context. The apparent lack of a glossary, index, or marginal glosses is a particularly troubling aspect of this text, especially as regards the earlier selections; while it is true that Chaucer may be read without notes or glosses, it’s not always easy, and it could prove very difficult indeed for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is often taught in translation specifically because the dialect is much more difficult than that of Chaucer for a modern reader. While the inclusion of a Middle English version of Sir Gawain could be laudable given the appropriate editorial apparatus to provide support to students, as it is presented in this compilation, many readers may find it close to unintelligible. Even Shakespeare, it should be noted, is generally taught in editions with helpful notes and margin glosses, and it is notable when these are entirely absent. It would seem most fair, in any case, to make all the original publication data of each included text readily available, as it is, for example, in the Norton editions. The manuscript illustration provided for Sir Gawain is a case in point of the weak attempt to identify the source of images. These may be freely available for use, but that is no reason not to inform students of the ultimate source of a given image, in that particular case MS. Cotton Nero AX f. 94, if memory serves. The introductory materials attempt a solid if elementary overview, and the suggested reading seems solid in most cases. The review questions are relatively helpful, as well, if not particularly challenging.
No obvious errors in fact leap out at the reader.
The selection of texts will likely stand the test of time for some years, although the editorial commentary, the suggested readings, and the review questions may more quickly become dated.
The editorial text is clear and entirely accessible; some of the earlier selections, however, would greatly benefit from marginal glosses and footnotes to benefits students who one would generally assume to have little conversance with earlier forms of English.
The entire work is logically and consistently arranged, and the editorial writing seems to have been conceived of as a coherent whole.
This compilation is arranged very much along the lines of a classic literary anthology, and should present no obstacles in that regard to either instructors or students.
From the perspective of one trained in traditional methods of teaching literature in a period-based fashion, this compilation is organized intuitively; this is not to say that such collections cannot be criticized on this basis, but merely to acknowledge that the compilers seem to have had the needs of the traditional survey course in mind when they designed this text.
The text seems free of major navigational, distortion, or display problems; that said, it is not particularly easy to move around in quickly, and the reader may find that jumping around from place to place in a given text or from text to text is most easily done by returning to the Table of Contents, which is interactive. The lack of line numbers for poetry is close to a fatal flaw in terms of in-class rapid navigation of texts, however, and seems an odd omission for a classroom teacher to make: In a day and age of multiple electronic versions of texts on phones and other screens as well as on paper, line numbers become the one anchor point bringing together many class discussions. Even when the translations and editions differ, everyone in a class can find the same place quickly, and indeed, the adroit instructor may use to her advantage such differences to engage students in productive discussions of the nature and implicit biases of various versions of a given text.
The text seems free of major obvious grammatical or typographical errors.
The text makes a reasonable attempt at inclusiveness; as compared to other anthologies, it is reasonably successful in this attempt, and is not overtly offensive or insensitive in any obvious way, although the employment of older, out-of-copyright editions is always a bit risky in this regard.
In short, this collection is an admirable and useful attempt to provide an open-source anthology for traditional surveys of early British literature. Its shortcomings include a lack of helpful footnotes and glosses for earlier forms of English, a lack of full and obvious attribution of the editions used as sources, a lack of line numbers for poetry, and a functional but clunky interface.
The editors have done an admirable job of selecting key authors from each period, though some notables absences remain (for instance, significant female authors like Margery Kempe, Lady Mary Wroth, Katherine Phillips). The choice to include full... read more
The editors have done an admirable job of selecting key authors from each period, though some notables absences remain (for instance, significant female authors like Margery Kempe, Lady Mary Wroth, Katherine Phillips).
The choice to include full versions of most provided texts is bold and often helpful, as in the case of the provided novels. However, it might not be the most useful for students—it is unlikely that undergraduates in a literature survey would gain more from reading the entirety of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History than they would from all seeing a wider range of early modern sonnets or medieval folk and fairy tale traditions. Similarly, the editors claim the importance of authors (like Francis Bacon) and texts (such as the King James Bible, which they refer to as “the most important publication of the age”) in chapter introductions without including them in the anthology.
No obvious errors in content.
The anthologized works tend to be important and will not themselves go out of date. However, recommended reading lists for each chapter are dated and often limited in scope.
For instance, the list provided for the medieval period skews heavily toward Arthuriana; only one recommended text focuses on Old English literature (and is a primary text with an outdated apparatus), and most other texts are historical rather than critical.
The list provided for the chapter titled “The Tudor Age” is also out of date, with the latest inclusion having been published in 1996—the only theoretical/critical angle presented is psychoanalysis, and the last book published on playgoing is Andrew Gurr’s 1987 Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London, which, while important, has been followed up by two more volumes from Gurr himself (in 1996 and 2000), as well as other important work by David Scott Kastan, Jean E. Howard, and Mary Bly. The editors also curiously choose to refer to the period as the “Renaissance,” though that term has been superseded by “Early Modern” for most scholars.
The list provided for “The Seventeenth Century: The Age of Revolution” lacks several key texts that explore and discuss the period as an “age of revolution.”
In a subsequent edition, updates to this would be relatively easy, and it would be simple to keep updating it for student use in effective ways.
In many ways, the editors are more compilers than true editors. They present versions of selected texts that are no longer under copyright--and thus tend to not reflect modern usage--without any additional apparatus to guide students. While useful for ensuring the affordability of the textbook, this poses a significant problem. No vocabulary is defined, and no assistance is provided to aid in comprehension. Poetic lines are not numbered, making accurate citation of longer texts nearly difficult.
Translations of Old English are unattributed (and themselves use vocabulary that students would find difficult, but which are not defined) and students are given no clear notion of the original language (except in well-chosen images).
The editors include an unattributed translation of Marie de France by Eugene Mason (1954) which Peggy Maddox has demonstrated offers a “false impression...of Marie’s story” – and one which comes from an author who declares himself unconcerned with textual fidelity in translation (“Ravishing Marie: Eugene Mason’s Translation of Marie de France’s Breton Lai of Lanval” Translation Review 61.1 (2002): 31-40).
The chosen version of The Canterbury Tales seems to follow a version published, by D. Laing Purves, in 1874 “in nineteenth-century garb” for the “popular perusal” of an Edinburgh audience. This renders
“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote / The droghte of Marche lath perced to the roote” into
“When that Aprilis, with his showers swoot, / The drought of March hath pierced to the root”
this seemingly minor change has the consequence of making a reading of the original Middle English impossible, of making discussions of poetic meter difficult, and of not improving the comprehensibility of the language for modern students.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the first text presented in its original Middle English. Unfortunately, the introduction to the text offers no indication of how students might attempt to read the difficult orthographical differences in the text, and again, there is no apparatus with definitions, translations or explanations.
As the texts move toward more recognizable English, the lack of an apparatus is less of an issue (though it would still be helpful in many cases), but for the early texts it makes for an impossible task for the undergraduate student.
Textual introductions are inconsistent: some feel like solid scholarly overviews of the texts, with relevant context and even (occasionally) references to scholarship; others are cursory and fail to define basic terms (“morality play”) for students.
The choice to label each time period a “chapter” makes for cumbersome reading and confusing learning outcomes. The outcomes listed in each chapter would require students to read and retain every work included in the anthology, which is unlikely to reflect how such anthologies are used. Similarly, the lists of key terms at the end of each chapter sometimes reflect names or terms quickly glossed over in the introductions, and sometimes reflect or concepts within texts themselves, but in any case would be difficult to fully define.
The text is organized chronologically, which is a standard and logical choice for an anthology of this type.
The text is presented in a clean and relatively easy to use interface. Students using the full PDF may experience difficulty in scrolling between sections, as the text jumped around during normal use.
The text contains no obvious grammatical errors. However, in multiple locations, the final section, which spans “Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century” is accorded the date range of 1603-1688, reusing the dates from the previous section on the seventeenth century.
The editors have endeavored to include a variety of authors where possible, a task which is difficult in some of the periods covered in the anthology. However some gaps remain, as in the first three “chapters” (through 1688), where other important female authors might have been included.
Many of the study questions are leading and filled with assumptions that could press students toward particular interpretations or prevent them from independent considerations, and these questions often rely on having read other texts in the anthology.
Ultimately, this is a solid compilation of previously-edited open-source texts, but it would fail to serve the needs of most undergraduates (even with significant additional material provided by a professor with content knowledge). The anthology could live up to its potential if revised in a way that updated the recommended readings to be more comprehensive and more recent, and if it provided significant textual apparati to help students in the comprehension of texts and the accurate understanding of their structural features.
The selection is comprehensive: predictable but extensive, at about twice the length of the corresponding volume in the Norton Anthology series. There is no index nor any glossaries. read more
The selection is comprehensive: predictable but extensive, at about twice the length of the corresponding volume in the Norton Anthology series.
There is no index nor any glossaries.
Historical and literary introductions are accurate, clear, and up-to-date. Learning objectives and questions for discussion are useful if not exciting. I saw no evidence of bias.
These are all classic texts, and they will be relevant for a long time. Updates should be easy.
The introductions and other apparatus provided by the editors is clear and jargon-free, appropriate for college and senior high school students.
The book is laid out consistently.
I think students would get used to navigating the text is fairly short order. One moves from the table of contents either by using the hot links or by entering a page number at the bottom of the page; likewise one learns, or one can be shown, to go back to the table of contents by entering "iii" at the bottom of the page.
One problem is that the reader can't "page around" as is possible with a paper book. This difficulty could be mitigated by putting the author's name and/or title of the work at the top of each page.
Organization is chronological, as is traditional with historical surveys.
No navigation problems as such, though as noted above there is a learning curve. No problems with the clarity of the images.
No grammatical errors.
The introductions to each major chapter are useful, but they can't cover enough of vocabulary and cultural context. Early modern English is full of words that look like modern English but have different meanings or connotations. Many young people today have little knowledge of the cultural and social structures of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The import of such passages as
The earl had had terror: comfort he got for it,
Waxed ’neath the welkin, world-honor gained
from Beowulf would be lost on most 21st century readers. The book lacks those footnotes and glosses that make the Nortons and the Longmans reader friendly. There are ways of compensating (e.g., the teacher could provide the glosses in some other medium).
One would need to use the book to see if there are any problems that a one-time examination did not reveal. I have covered my few reservations here, and will add only that a British Lit I teacher who wishes to spare her students $50 - $100 ought to try this volume.
This anthology contains a good collection of major texts from British literature from the Middle Ages to the 18th Century. Most of the most commonly-taught texts are included, along with helpful introductory essays for each section and... read more
This anthology contains a good collection of major texts from British literature from the Middle Ages to the 18th Century. Most of the most commonly-taught texts are included, along with helpful introductory essays for each section and explanations preceding each text. There are also relevant images that accompany many of the texts, which add a nice visual element to the anthology. A major strength of the anthology is that it includes the full text of several major works, including Beowulf, Doctor Faustus, two Shakespeare plays, Gulliver's Travels, etc., as well as excerpts of many other long texts. This anthology doesn't have quite the breadth of the Norton or Longman print editions, but it has a sufficient number and variety of texts for any British Literature survey course. The table of contents provides an effective index to the textbook's content.
The information in the textbook is mostly accurate, and the texts included are free from errors or typos. The texts represent the most familiar versions of these literary works, and the language is generally true to the original sources. There doesn't seem to be information included about translators of texts, especially middle English texts (like Beowulf), nor about which variants of texts are being used (e.g., quarto or folio versions of Shakespeare plays). So that is a significant weakness of the textbook, but the overall accuracy of the texts is sufficient for an introductory survey course.
The content of the textbook appears to be up-to-date and focuses on widely-accepted facts and interpretations of the various texts. Most of the information that might need to be updated appears in the introductory materials for each text, so it would be easy to locate and revise if needed.
The text does not appear to include many footnotes or explanations for obscure terms. The language for the introductory materials is very clear and comprehensible, but there are very few helps for students in understanding the primary texts included in the anthology. Students using this text would need access to a very good dictionary or online tools to help decipher some of the more challenging texts.
The structure and layout of the textbook is nicely consistent, which makes the book easy to navigate. There is a lack of consistency in the editing, since some texts retain early modern spellings and others have been modernized, so that might be a barrier for students. For instance, the passages from Spenser retain his archaic spellings, but Shakespeare's sonnets are presented in modern orthography, so students might get a false impression of the original language of the texts. Overall, however, the book is consistent enough for an introductory course.
The modularity of the text is generally strong. The texts are organized by authors and titles, but also include subheadings and other tools for keeping track of where you are in a large book. It would be nice to have some line numbers to use for reference, especially in texts where they were included in the original (like Paradise Lost).
The organization of the text is clear and understandable. The texts follow a general chronological order and are grouped together by author. The organization follows the standard format used in most British literature anthologies.
There are no noticeable interface issues. The images are clear, the texts are easy to read, the fonts are consistent, and the navigation is straightforward. Hyperlinks from the table of contents to the various sections of the textbook are a helpful feature of the book.
The book appears to have been carefully edited, so there are no noticeable grammatical errors. The writing in the introductory materials for each text is clear and professional. The only grammatical issue is the lack of consistency in editing between texts from different authors and periods.
The text makes a good faith effort to be culturally inclusive, to the extent that an anthology of early British literature can be. There are several female authors included, as well as a few from different races and social classes. There is certainly room for a little more diversity in the texts included, like perhaps adding some broadside ballads, but there has clearly been an effort to make this text inclusive.
This is a very helpful anthology for anyone teaching the first half of the British literature survey course. I especially appreciate the editorial materials included in the anthology, as well as the images that help provide a cultural context for the text. I hope to see more footnotes and line numbers in the next iteration of the text; at the very least, it would be helpful to have links to supplementary materials to explain some of the textual variants not represented in the anthology. But overall, this is a great resource for students beginning their study of British literature.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The Middle Ages
- 1.1 Learning Outcomes
- 1.2 Introduction
- 1.3 Recommended Reading
- 1.4 The Dream of the Rood
- 1.5 Beowulf
- 1.6 Judith
- 1.7 The Wanderer
- 1.8 The Wife's Lament
- 1.9 The Venerable Bede
- 1.10 Anglo-Saxon Riddles
- 1.11 Marie de France
- 1.12 Middle English Lyrics
- 1.13 Geoffrey Chaucer
- 1.14 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- 1.15 Julian of Norwich
- 1.16 The Second Shepherds' Play
- 1.17 Sir Thomas Malory
- 1.18 Everyman
- 1.19 Key Terms
Part Two: The Tudor Age (1485-1603)
- 2.1 Learning Outcomes
- 2.2 Introduction
- 2.3 Recommended Reading
- 2.4 Thomas More
- 2.5 Thomas Wyatt
- 2.6 Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
- 2.7 Queen Elizabeth
- 2.8 Edmund Spenser
- 2.9 Sir Walter Raleigh
- 2.10 Sir Philip Sidney
- 2.11 Mary (Sidney) Herbert, Countess of Pembroke
- 2.12 Christopher Marlowe
- 2.13 William Shakespeare
- 2.14 Key Terms
Part 3: The Seventeenth Century: The Age of Revolution (1603-1688)
- 3.1 Learning Outcomes
- 3.2 Introduction
- 3.3 Recommended Reading
- 3.4 John Donne
- 3.5 Aemilia Lanyer
- 3.6 Ben Jonson
- 3.7 Robert Herrick
- 3.8 Andrew Marvell
- 3.9 Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle
- 3.10 John Milton
- 3.11 John Dryden
- 3.12 Samuel Pepys
- 3.13 Key Terms
Part 4: Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century (1603-1688)
- 4.1 Learning Outcomes
- 4.2 Introduction
- 4.3 Recommended Reading
- 4.4 Aphra Behn
- 4.5 William Congreve
- 4.6 Daniel Defoe
- 4.7 Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
- 4.8 Jonathan Swift
- 4.9 Alexander Pope
- 4.10 Henry Fielding
- 4.11 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
- 4.12 Samuel Johnson
- 4.13 James Boswell
- 4.14 Olaudah Equiano
- 4.15 Key Terms
About the Book
The University of North Georgia Press and Affordable Learning Georgia bring you British Literature I: From the Middle Ages to Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century. Featuring over 50 authors and full texts of their works, this anthology follows the shift of monarchic to parliamentarian rule in Britain, and the heroic epic to the more egalitarian novel as genre.
- Original introductions to The Middle Ages; The Sixteenth Century: The Tudor Age; The Seventeenth Century: The Age of Revolution; and Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century
- Over 100 historical images
- Instructional Design, including Reading and Review Questions and Key Terms
- Forthcoming ancillary with open-enabled pedagogy, allowing readers to contribute to the project
This textbook is an Open Access Resource. It can be reused, remixed, and reedited freely without seeking permission.
About the Contributors
Bonnie J. (B.J.) Robinson, Ph.D., is the Director of the University of North Georgia Press and a professor of English at the University of North Georgia. She has published scholarly works on late Victorian literature and Creative Writing pedagogy and served on the editorial boards of Turn-of-the-Century Women, The Walter Pater Newsletter, and The William Morris Newsletter. Dr. Robinson has won several publishing grants, including a National Endowment for the Humanities digital start-up grant on digital publishing in the Humanities.
Laura J. Getty, Ph.D., is a professor of English at the University of North Georgia. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at The Pennsylvania State University, and her areas of specialization are medieval literature, world literature, and mythology. Dr. Getty was the editor-in-chief of Compact Anthology of World Literature and a contributing editor for World Literature I: Beginnings to 1650, both with the UNG Press.